Just weeks after thousands of lineworkers were mobilized from across the United States to restore power when a June storm caused widespread damage throughout Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas, officials with Southwestern Electric Power Company (SWEPCO), a unit of American Electric Power, and Northwest Louisiana Technical Community College (NLTCC) recently shared plans for a partnership to develop an additional talent pipeline within Northwest Louisiana.
Leaders from both organizations attended a signing ceremony at NLTCC’s Shreveport campus to commemorate a memorandum of understanding (MOU). The MOU will officially launch a Louisiana-based certificate program to help the next generation of lineworkers through educational opportunities and a newly developed career training program.
The NLTCC Lineworker Certification Program is expected to span 32 weeks and includes up to 1,100 hours of both classroom and hands-on instruction. Students graduate with the skills and knowledge needed to be successful at SWEPCO in part because the program’s curriculum is based on programs underway within AEP.
“Our program is all about putting the skills and the certifications within reach of Ark-La-Tex students to enhance their overall employability and ensure they are job-ready,” said Dr. Jayda Spillers, NLTCC Chancellor. “We’re thrilled with this program and the partnership we’ve forged with SWEPCO.”
Participants who complete the NLTCC pre-apprenticeship program can earn up to eight certifications and could interview for a lineworker internship with SWEPCO. Internships at SWEPCO provide students with a unique opportunity to work with real-world hands-on experiences through their 16-week internship program. Upon successful completion of the program, interns can be offered permanent employment.
“Lineworkers are an elite group of men and women who put their lives on the line to ensure we have the power we rely on to stay safe and comfortable,” said Drew Seidel, vice president, distribution region operations. “As this field continues to grow and as we prepare the next generation of talent, we’re pleased to partner with NLTCC to launch this new certification program to give candidates the skills and experience needed to prepare for future opportunities.”
SWEPCO’s approximately 300 lineworkers are among the nearly 130,000 nationally who are often-unsung heroes whose typical day includes safely handling thousands of volts of electricity, high atop power lines to keep electricity flowing to homes and businesses.
“Lineworkers are truly special. They work to serve our communities, and they lead with their hearts. When trouble strikes or severe weather takes its toll, these are the heroic men and women who are often first on the scene to restore power as quickly and safely as possible,” Brett Mattison, SWEPCO president and COO, said.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, growth is expected within this field. In fact, reports show a projected 6 percent growth from 2021 to 2031 within the line installers and repairer's field.
Already, the industry estimates about 23,500 openings for line installers and repairers projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.
AEP is a place where many people have long careers, and with the potential for future retirements, SWEPCO hopes to use partnerships like this latest NLTCC program to help prepare a future workforce.
“We believe we have the opportunity to deliver a program that meets the needs of our local residents and employers like SWEPCO through the development of this program,” Dr. Spillers explained. “We know there is a need for this specialized work and reports show potential future growth with new development or other enhancements to ensure our nation’s electric grid is strong.”
NLTCC’s Lineworker Certification program represents the second program endorsed by SWEPCO.
For the past several years, Texas State Technical College (TSTC) in Marshall, Texas, has provided SWEPCO with a talent pipeline from its Electrical Lineworker Technology program. In 2022, SWEPCO hired 49 interns and full-time hires from TSTC.