Practicing Safe Installations
At the Marshall Training Center, an apprentice uses proper cover up and personal protective equipment while practicing a de-energized secondary connection while standing on the ground.
Displaying Proper Techniques
A participant in the training program displays proper Lock and Drop leg form while descending a wood pole.
To help the workers to train year-round, the utility built an indoor climbing arena at its training center. In this area, apprentices can practice setting and climbing 45-ft wood poles in the dirt and gravel floor while the instructors coach them from a catwalk above the arena.
Preparing for Apprenticeships
With its indoor climbing arena, the utility has the capability to train individuals before they even enter the apprenticeship program. Through its school-to-work program, Consumers Energy has a working agreement with the Lansing Community College. Soon, the utility will also have a similar agreement with Alpena Community College to certify college students as potential apprentices. By taking electrical classes at the college and getting hands-on training at Consumer Energy’s Marshall Training Center, the students can prepare to enter the utility’s apprenticeship program upon completion.
Gaining Substation Experience
Those apprentices who are interested in working in substations can train inside a de-energized substation, which is set up to look exactly like the utility’s substations in the field. In this area of the training grounds, the apprentices can set up a fault in the meter socket and then look for errors to ensure that they are taking the proper voltage. In addition, they can also gain clearance to visit Consumers Energy's fully working, energized substations close to Marshall Training Center.
Offering Classroom and Hands-On Training
The original training facility opened in 1978 in Marshall, Michigan, as a natural gas service center. One year later, it was transformed into a training center for electrical and substation training, and it offers both indoor and outside training areas. For those linemen who can't travel to the training center, the utility offers distance learning options.
Training on Fall Protection
Consumers Energy trains not only its apprentices, but also its journeymen linemen. To comply with the new OSHA regulations,the utility provided fall protection belt certification courses to the crews. As part of the training, the linemen could choose from one of two different belts.
Consumers Energy has 41 acres available for training, and it uses nearly all of the land for different stages of apprenticeships. To advance from a basic line apprentice to a journeyman lineman, it takes a combination of about 9,600 hours of on-the-job training and classroom work. To help move the apprentices through the different steps in their apprenticeship, Consumers Energy has set up the training grounds to train the apprentices in pole climbing, constructing lines, and hanging crossarms.
Shining the Spotlight on Renewable Energy
The training center has renewable energy equipment such as a wind turbine and photovoltaic arrays, which the instructors can refer to during training. While the linemen aren’t directly involved in installing the renewable energy equipment, the electricity produced by these units still flows down the line, and in turn, they must understand how the electricity is produced, how to work with it, and how to ensure that it is de-energized.