Eric Eriksen relocated from Alaska to Texas to become president of the NLC campus.

Utility Veteran Journeys from Alaska to Texas

Aug. 6, 2020
Following decades of experience at an Alaskan utility, Eric Eriksen kicks off his role as the president of the Texas NLC campus.

As a high school student in Idaho, Eric Eriksen noticed a road sign for Northwest Lineman College (NLC). Twenty-seven years later, the utility professional is now the president of NLC’s Texas campus.

“When I watched the campus being constructed, I had no idea I would come full circle in life,” Eriksen said.

After graduating with a degree in engineering and business from college, he seized the opportunities in Alaska and gained a wide array of knowledge and experience by working for a utility in generation, transmission and distribution. For example, his utility performed the first cruise ship shore power connection in 2001 and restored power and rebuilt infrastructure following monstrous avalanches in 2008 and 2009.

Making a Difference

While reflecting on his career, Eriksen said one experience stood out in his mind—changing the lives of up-and-coming linemen.

“Knowing that I helped someone to get on track as a journeyman lineman, get a job and become a leader in the industry, is very rewarding,” Eriksen said.

At a certain point in his career, he decided it was time to look for new challenges and opportunities, which led him to his current position at NLC. After spending a week on the campus, he had the opportunity to learn more about NLC.

“It was a game changer to meet the people, see what they were doing and feel the culture of the organization,” he said. “I wanted the opportunity to do more.”

Safeguarding Students

Eriksen transferred from Alaska to Texas to start his new job at NLC and immerse himself in the culture of the company. He started his new position just as the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way the campus delivered instruction through social distancing and online classes. 

“Our role is to build the workforce, and we were working hard to continue to do that while doing everything we could to slow the spread of COVID-19,” Eriksen said. 

Quanta Services, Northwest Lineman College’s parent company, was key in assisting and supporting the safety and continuity of education and training.

“We had all the right people and quickly developed a plan to distance students and employees, along with implementing many new safety measures,” he said.  

For example, within a week, NLC transitioned all class sessions for the Electrical Lineworker Program (ELP) to live, instructor-led online training, and implemented strict social distancing and cleanliness standards for hands-on field instruction.

For the ELP term that began in May, students who were unable to meet specific standards related to travel, health and housing were unable to participate in the program until they self-quarantined for 14 days prior to arriving on campus. Also, they could not have tested positive for COVID-19 or be waiting for results from a test. Furthermore, NLC required students and campus visitors to limit housing, hosting or visiting with travelers from outside the area and not travel to a COVID-19 hot spot without pre-approval from a program academic coordinator.

“As conditions continue to change, NLC is closely monitoring the situation and actively adjusting while continuing to ensure we do what is best for the students,” Ericksen said.

Looking to the Future

 As NLC continues to navigate the pandemic, Eriksen said he plans to continue making more young people aware of the opportunities in the industry.

“A lot of people in high school have not been exposed to the trades,” he says. “We want to help them understand the opportunities in the industry.”

NLC has several campuses nationwide in California, Florida, Texas and Idaho. Educational institutions, like NLC, may be seen as a traditional “brick-and-mortar line school,” but Eriksen said NLC goes beyond this perception.  

“We have the ability to adjust quickly and successfully to our changing environments,” he says. “We are innovators. For example, before we even knew about COVID-19, NLC saw the need for mobile training, and developed equipment and a service where instructors travel across the nation, delivering training in parking lots and hotel conference rooms with the TransBanker, a transformer training simulator, which NLC instructors use to deliver on-site company training.”

As the demand for linemen increases worldwide, NLC continues its plans to grow and expand.

“Infrastructure is in such demand that it’s hard for utilities to continue staffing projects,” Eriksen said. “Through education, we want to supply the incredible need for workers in the industry and provide long, rewarding career opportunities.”

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