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Line Life Podcast: Expanding Diversity in the Line Trade

Oct. 15, 2021
As part of its initiative to increase diversity in its field workforce, Duke Energy partnered with PowerTown Line Construction and community organizations on a lineman training program.

Since the late 1890s, the line trade has been a proud occupation rooted in hard work and tradition. For those high school students living in diverse communities, however, doing line work for a large utility may have never seemed like a viable option—until now. Over his last 38 years in the utility industry,

Barry Anderson, Duke Energy’s regional senior vice president of customer delivery in Florida, has noticed a lack of diversity in the line trade.

“I think it has been a missed opportunity for utilities,” he said. “In the St. Petersburg’s Operations Center, for example, the linemen didn’t represent the diversity of the community, and I don’t think we were alone. Throughout the United States, we need to find ways to educate communities that these jobs are out there.”

The key to increasing diversity in the line trade is to first diversify the candidate pool for hiring apprentices and next to think local.

“I‘ve witnessed across the country a gap in diversity within the lineman craft,” Anderson said. “And believe industry-wide, it starts with the interviewing and hiring process and an element of unconscious bias. This program works around that.” Instead of simply marketing opportunities about line trade to high school students, electric utilities and line contractors must dive deeper to make a difference, Anderson said.

For example, Duke Energy joined forces with a local contractor and community partners to launch a new certification program at St. Petersburg College. The 14-week program empowers people from different backgrounds, cultures and ethnicities to discover the life-changing career of line work. The utility invested $100,000 into the facility, classroom materials and instructor and $30,000 for the equipment at St. Petersburg College to expose the students to line work.

To hear the full story written by Amy Fischbach, check out our October 2021 Line Life Podcast produced by Danielle Blanchette. Simply click on the link below to hear the audio story. You can also visit our podcast landing page or email us with your comments. 

Line Life Podcast: Now on Podbean
T&D World's Line Life Podcast is now on Podbean, and starting in January 2024, it is moving from monthly to weekly distribution. Follow us on Podbean to be notified when new episodes are available. If you have a suggestion for a podcast guest, email us at [email protected]. Check out our latest episodes below. 

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