Students will be lining up for Meridian Technology Center’s newest training opportunity.
The school’s Energy and Power program has expanded its offerings and now includes an Electric Utility Lineworker area of specialization. The new course offering was added to meet the growing needs of the district and the state, according to Dr. DeAnna Little, Director of Instruction for Meridian’s trades and industry programs.
“The energy sector continues to grow in the Meridian district, Oklahoma and across the nation. These are high-paying, in-demand jobs that aren’t easily filled,” Little explained.
Electric utility lineworkers typically work in dangerous conditions, and they must be able to work quickly and efficiently to keep power moving. Individuals pursuing this career path should be physically fit, focused on safety, comfortable with heights and prepared to work in various environments. Critical thinking is also essential for this profession, as lineworkers must think quickly when problems arise.
Areas covered in the training include a mix of theory, foundations of electricity, as well as installation and metering. The program will also focus on working with electric utility poles. Students will learn how to climb, frame, set and replace poles. Students who complete this program will be prepared for a variety of careers in the energy sector as well as telecommunications, utilities and construction. This program is available in the afternoon and is open to high school seniors and adults.
Powerful Solutions Grounded in Industry Partnerships
Input for course curriculum and program equipment came from industry partners who serve on the program’s Business and Education Council. Little, as well as Energy and Power instructors Jeff Littau and Cody Erwin, worked with local energy and power providers and industrial technology companies to understand the changing needs of the industry. Conversations included job outlook, filling the skills gap, new equipment and employment barriers. Feedback from these conversations led to a restructuring of the program and the addition of two specialized career paths.
Hunter Robinson is a member of the council. As a former lineworker and now CEO of Central Rural Electric Cooperative (Central), Robinson shared his firsthand experiences in the industry as well as support for the Electric Utility Lineworker program. Central donated the equipment and supplies to build an electric utility pole training workspace at Meridian. The city of Stillwater’s electric utility department donated the workforce and tools to install the 40-foot poles. For both entities, the return on investment will be found in a skilled workforce with ties to the communities in which they serve.
“It is in the cooperative’s best interest to be a part of this training program,” Robinson explained. “We want to develop the skills of local people and hopefully have them work for us. We strongly believe if we hire people from here, they will stay here.”
When students complete the two-year training program, Robinson and other partners anticipate building apprenticeships that will allow graduates to get valuable on-the-job experience and immediate employment.
Robinson noted that being a lineworker is one of the highest-paying jobs an individual can have without a college degree. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the median pay for a lineworker in 2021 was nearly $75,000. This doesn’t include opportunities for overtime, travel, shift differentiation and hazard pay that frequently come with working to restore power during natural disasters.
Other local industry professionals that provided input on the development of the Electric Utility Lineworker career path included Central employees Jackie Berna, Dewayne Drury and Shawn Jones; city of Stillwater employees Loren Smith, Wade Coffey and Clint Oliver; city of Perry employees Brian Wheatley, Dixie Johnson and Larry Pannell; and Cimarron Electric Cooperative representatives Justin Glazier, Ron Pennington and Luke Farris.
Additional Training That Powers Oklahoma’s Future
The Energy and Power program offers three training tracks. In addition to the Electric Utility Lineworker path, students can study Power and Production and Distribution or Industrial Technology.
The Power Production and Distribution course covers mechanical, heat, chemical, electromagnetic and clean energy. Students learn through hands-on projects that demonstrate the interplay of the generation, distribution, and energy use. This course will only be offered in the morning. It will take students one year to complete.
The Industrial Technology training focuses on industrial electrical systems, fluid power systems, mechanical drive systems, programmable logic controllers and process controls. Students will also learn to program robotics and mechatronics. Upon completing the program, graduates will have the basic knowledge and skills to set up, operate, maintain and repair advanced machines and control systems that power modern manufacturing facilities.