Sparks of inspiration: Tidewater students engage in hands-on lineman training

Published 7:00 am Monday, March 11, 2024

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Twenty students from five Tidewater high schools received hands-on training and insights on the role of a power sector line worker earlier this week in an instructional session hosted by Community Electric Cooperative in Windsor. This was a record-high turnout for the annual “Day in the Life of a Lineman” event that CEC conducts to raise awareness about the services provided by the cooperative and its all-important line crew.

Participating students came from Windsor, Southampton, Smithfield, Western Branch and Gloucester high schools.

Two home-schooled students from Suffolk and Isle of Wight also participated.

Tuesday’s interactive session gave students the chance to accompany linemen in bucket trucks, to climb poles, to witness a “live line” safety demonstration, to learn how the cooperative distributes electricity to its member-owners, and to speak with line workers face to face about the challenges, benefits and other facets of their jobs. The students interacted not only with CEC’s line workers and chief executive, but with 10 employees who shared their insights from Old Dominion Electric Cooperative (ODEC) in Glen Allen and with Career Counselor Matt Dunn from Southside Virginia Community College, which offers a Power Line Worker Program.

It is not uncommon for attendees at the Day in the Life of Lineman session to ultimately pursue a career in the electric sector after receiving an education at SVCC and joining a contractor, cooperative or utility in the Tidewater area.

 “This was a superb event, and we are delighted that so many young people from throughout the region chose to take part,” CEC President and CEO Steven A. Harmon said. “First and foremost, all parts of the event took place safely. Beyond that, we are so pleased that representatives of Old Dominion Electric took the time to drive down and contribute so greatly to the day’s success. Thanks to the efforts of everyone involved, students were able to gain valuable insights into the world of line work and the important role our cooperative plays in the community.”

ODEC’s involvement in the educational session aligned with a series of visits its representatives are conducting to various distribution co-ops across the state, aimed at information sharing and relationship building. In contrast to Community Electric, which directly distributes power to its member-owners, ODEC operates as a generation and transmission cooperative. It provides power not only to CEC but also to ten other member cooperatives within its service area.

The CEC line workers who shared their stories and perspectives have been with the cooperative ranging from four years to nearly two decades. One is an apprentice lineman and the others are full-fledged journeymen who earned that status after years of field and classroom experience. They are: Ryan Hewitt, Dylan Hite, Daniel Hobson, Jonathan Powell, Erik Thiede and Austin Williams.