Zackery Gough, a two-time champion in the apprentice division at the Lineman’s Rodeo, credits his success in his career so far to PEC’s apprenticeship program as well as his determination to study and invest time and effort into learning the skills in the line trade.

Faces of the Future in Line Work: Zackery Gough

May 20, 2024
Zackery Gough, a two-time champion in the apprentice division at the Lineman’s Rodeo, credits his success in his career so far to PEC’s apprenticeship program as well as his determination to study and invest time and effort into learning the skills in the line trade. 

Pedernales Electric Cooperative

  • 4th Year Apprentice
  • Went to Northwest Lineman College before joining PEC
  • Training at PEC’s Marble Falls, Texas, facility
  • Enjoys hunting and traveling around exploring new and different places.
  • Won the International Lineman’s Rodeo apprentice division twice

Inspiration to Work in the Trade

My dad told me about linework after seeing some guys working while he was driving home one day. It got me thinking about it, plus my uncle works as an engineer for Southern California Edison — he’s why I became interested in the utility industry. I love the outdoors and always knew that I wanted to work outside, and figured I’d give it a try. The opportunity to build a career and travel all heavily influenced my desire to become a lineworker.

Getting His Start

After graduating from Northwest Lineman College (NLC) in December 2020, I started here at Pedernales in January, so I started right away. The beginning school at NLC is climbing for 15 weeks, and PEC’s training builds off that, is in-depth and related to what we do every day. It’s been a unique opportunity to build my skills and learn so much more. When I was at NLC, I had experience with the TransBanker lab where we work on transformers, and when I joined PLC, I was able to continue this training. 

Training on the Job

I recently became an Apprentice 4 and am on my last step to becoming a journeyworker. At PEC, we’re fortunate to have access to incredibly robust training through the program they’ve built. PEC has a training center in Marble Falls, Texas, with classrooms, instructors and training yards. This year we’re working on switching and reclosures, system protection, as well as in-depth hot work and leadership skills. We have many opportunities to explore and gain exposure to new things. Having our training here at home is also nice because we don’t have to drive far and when we need to practice on something we can just go to the training center and figure it out.

Observing Crews at Work

I like how we get to travel to other areas of the co-op (other districts) and see how other crews work. This helps you really pick up things here and there and I feel like we learn things at the training center that we may not learn in the field. It provides us some exposure to things we wouldn’t normally see—like transmission. All of this helps us to be more well-rounded and versatile in our skills, which is something I’m grateful for.

Day in the Life

I’m on a construction crew, so we do a bit of everything. Most of our work consists of setting new poles and doing underground work. We’ve done a few different jobs and reconducts here and there, but PEC services some of the fastest growing counties in the nation, so there are many opportunities for construction work that we get to do.

Rewards and Challenges in the Line Trade

In Texas, working in the summer heat can be a challenge. If we’re working storms or callouts, there can be some long hours in either intense heat or freezing cold weather with rain and ice. Running outages and being on-call, however, are my favorite parts of being a lineworker. Once you have a good group of guys and it all clicks, everything runs so smoothly. We’re all here to help each other out, and that’s what I enjoy about it. I completely trust the guys I work with and love working with them. Being a lineworker, you’re in a big community, and it’s nice to be part of it.

Working Storms

I was at PEC for the last two ice storms— Winter Storm Uri in 2021 and Winter Storm Mara in 2023. We worked long hours and for three weeks straight during the most recent storm. I worked with another guy on the night crew, picking up lines and splicing lines everywhere. We fixed broken poles, crossarms, and everything that was damaged from the weight of the ice. The colder temperatures overnight and working in the dark were challenging. I remember about a week-and-a-half into it, we were tired, but we knew folks were counting on us. It’s something I’ll never forget, being out there in the middle of the night and then closing a switch and bringing a whole subdivision on. To see how thankful everybody is, that’s my favorite part of the job— helping people get their power restored, especially when they’ve been out for a while.

Safety in the Field

Safety is the most important thing. I like coming to work, but I also want to go home. I'm grateful for PEC's commitment to safety and training, and the culture we have here that puts safety first. Every job, we thoroughly talk about it with the crew to get a game plan of what we’re going to do, including in job briefings. Things may change in the field, but having a plan and being able to adapt, as well as knowing your equipment and how to use it right, is critical.

Words of Wisdom

I would absolutely encourage anyone interested to pursue a career in line work. When it comes to excelling in the field, my advice would be to always think ahead. Be thinking about the next step ahead of the lineworker and the crew you’re working with. Figure out what they need and have it ready for them before they need it. It shows that someone is determined, paying attention to safety and part of the team, which I think is the best thing you can do. To be successful in an apprenticeship in the line trade, it takes a certain dedication to it and wanting to do it. There’s a lot of hard work and a lot of knowledge you need to do it well. It can be a mental game sometimes, not just grunt work. PEC is committed to a culture of safety, so it’s important to be steadfast and pay attention to the details. You want to carry that commitment in everything you do.

Future of Line Work

I foresee a lot more stuff coming out safety-wise and possibly even changing the ways in which people work and their practices. I can see the industry growing and a lot more people getting involved, especially given how electric-driven everything is nowadays. I think it’s going to be even more demanding.

Editor’s Note: If you would like to nominate an apprentice for Faces of the Future, please email Field Editor Amy Fischbach at [email protected]. All profiled apprentice lineworkers will receive a tool package from Milwaukee Tool. Also, to learn more about Zackery Gough and his career in the line trade, be sure to check out our new Faces of the Future series for T&D World’s Line Life Podcast on Podbean at linelife.podbean.com. 

 

 

 

 

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