The Lineman Training Center helps students move up the career ladder
SOMERSET, Ky. (FOX 56) — For about an hour each day, a classroom session in a large building near Somerset is like any other, with students at their desks and a teacher up front. But for most of the day, the lessons are in the air.
It’s the Lineman Training Center at Somerset Community College, where steel-toed boots and insulated gloves are part of the uniform. It takes a special person to want to work around high voltage wires 40 or 50 feet in the air.
Coordinator Dean Rhodes said: “You look and say it looks easy. When you get on pole it’s a little different story… and on top it’s a big different story.
But that’s just the ticket for students like Brian Owens from Harlan County. “I’m more of an adventurous type person,” he said. “I like heights. That seemed to be the job for me, (being) outside all the time.
The center has outdoor training grounds, but its indoor climbing yard is one of the largest in the country. More than 1,200 linemen have graduated since 2008. Students are reminded that they will be called upon to work overtime on the worst days, in sub-zero temperatures, when extreme weather wreaks havoc on lines electrical. It can be dangerous and certainly exhausting.
“One thing I was told when I started, when everyone takes cover, we put on our helmets and go to work,” Rhodes said.
But, despite the working conditions, the demand for linemen is strong. Students graduating from high school can be prepared for a lifelong career in just a few months.
That’s what drew Tyler Whitaker from Lee County to the program. “There’s a bunch of linemen back home and they’re all living a great life and I want that for me,” he said.
Many students already have jobs planned when they leave this center after just eight weeks, jobs with starting salaries of around $30,000 a year. And Rhodes said that in five years, that can double or triple. A typical line worker in the United States can earn over $100,000.
Owens said his wife didn’t want him training to be a lineman, thinking it was too dangerous. “But we had to talk about the money and the benefits. Now she is all for it,” he said. “She knows people who have bought houses and cars after doing this for a few years.”
Rhodes knows the potential salary is absolutely the program’s biggest draw. But there is also a reward in knowing how much you are appreciated in an emergency.
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“I ate a lot of pies and cakes and cookies that I was given when I turned people’s lights back on,” he said.
“It motivates me, knowing that I’m helping someone,” Whitaker said.
The course costs around $4,200, but students say when you compare that to four years of college, it’s a bargain, especially considering how quickly they can land high-paying jobs upon completion. .
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