Earlier this year, Cherokee Nation Career Services began a noncredit certificate program called High Voltage Lineman training via a partnership with the Oklahoma State University of Institute of Technology Workforce and Economic Development.
"The two-year degree program is already well established on the Okmulgee campus so we are able to apply that knowledge and skillset in an expedited program for the Cherokee Nation reservation," Hunter Palmer, Career Services Economic Development manager, said.
The program has allowed Career Services to create other partnerships with companies such as Lake Region Electric Cooperative, American Electric Power (AEP), and Utility Plus Inc. to provide internships and materials for students.
"We then partnered with Heavy Metal Training Institute to provide us with commercial driver's license (CDL) training for the students and partnered with AEP and Public Service Co. of Oklahoma to provide us with a bucket truck for training," Palmer said.
The program has two cohorts in training with 18 total students. Training is broken up between the classroom, training grounds, and internships.
"The students spend the first eight weeks in the classroom and on training grounds. The second eight weeks will be spent on internship and then back to the classroom for another eight weeks before they leave for their final eight week internship to complete the program," said Palmer.
Classes consist of "Introduction to High Voltage Lineman," "High Voltage Lineman Safety," "High Voltage Pole Climbing Techniques," "AC/DC Principles," "Heavy Construction Equipment & Operation," "Principles of Operations of High Voltage Distribution Systems," "Underground Distribution Systems," "Overhead Distribution Systems," "Advance Distribution Systems," "Transmission Principles," "HVL Capstone," "OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) 10", and "CPR & CDL Class A" training.
Palmer said the training is "almost entirely" hands-on to prepare students for internships. He said by then students should already have obtained a Class A CDL and OSHA 10 card as well as be certified in CPR, digger operations, pole climbing, bucket truck rescue, and pole top rescue.
He said the internships serve multiple purposes. "While providing hands-on learning, it allows prospective employers the opportunity to evaluate the candidates before hiring them. In turn, students are able to evaluate potential employers to ensure it will be a good fit for them."
Palmer said with paid internships, students can make between US$12 to US$31 per hour while getting job experience.
CN citizen Taylor Davidson of Sallisaw is a student in his first internship on the East Coast, helping with damages caused by Hurricane Isaias, which has left millions across without power.
"I started this lineman class with hopes of gaining a trade that could allow me to make a reasonable salary and keep me close to my family," Davidson said. "With electricity being such a vital part of our daily lives, I really like the idea of being able to be a part of keeping the electricity up and running for my community."
The program takes two cohorts per year, with 10 to 12 students per cohort. The next two cohorts will start in 2021.
To apply, candidates must be 18 or older, have a valid driver's license, dependable transportation, and pass the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety drug screening and physical test. A Class A CDL is preferred but not required. Applicants do not need to be CN citizens if they are qualified for Career Services federal grants.
Palmer said the demand for linemen is high and that it's hard to fill vacancies with experienced candidates. He said an average salary for a lineman could be up to US$65,000 annually.
"The industry is currently in a growth period resulting in an increased demand for additional linemen," he said. "Seasoned linemen are retiring or approaching retirement, adding to the already increased demand for qualified individuals to fill both new positions and vacancies created by retirement. It is extremely beneficial to power companies to have a trained pool of candidates available to hire from, rather than training them on the job."
This article was originally published here.