Bridging the Knowledge Gap in the Line Trade
Once a journeyman lineman nears retirement, he or she has often climbed thousands of poles, worked countless storms and gained a lifetime of experience about the line trade. But what happens when he or she leaves the trade?
Electric utilities and line contractors are striving to preserve the wisdom and experience of veteran linemen and transfer it to the new generation of apprentice linemen.
Maximo Fuentes, owner of Fuentes Consulting, LLC, and a former journeyman lineman and supervisor for Sacramento Municipal Utility District, believes knowledge transfer is the most critical component in educating and training lineworkers. “You cannot transfer knowledge by just handing the workers volumes of safety and work procedures,” he said. “Those items have to be embedded in the coaching and mentoring of the workers—not only the apprentices but also the journey level workers—throughout their entire careers.”
Here are the stories of how three companies—Duke Energy Florida, FirstEnergy and BHI Energy/D&D Power—are ensuring the knowledge isn’t lost along the way as experienced journeymen retire and new apprentices come on board.
Investing in the Future of the Line Trade
Duke Energy Florida hires about 75 apprentices to replenish the line technician attrition it experiences each year.
“The industry continues to need a steady stream of talent to meet the changing needs of our business, especially replacements for workers who retire or leave the company,” said Barry Anderson, regional senior vice president, senior delivery for Duke Energy Florida.
Duke Energy Florida, which serves 1.9 million customers and 600 line technicians, follows a continuous learning model. When the apprentices come on board, they are exposed to a combination of classroom and instructor-led application training.
“We have dedicated time in the field under our senior linemen practicing the knowledge and skills of the craft on actual work that serves and restores customers,” Anderson said.
A typical line apprentice takes four to five years in this type training to become a certified line technician. To train the new workers, St. Petersburg College (SPC) opened a new Power Florida Training Center at its Allstate Center location. In collaboration with Duke Energy and PowerTown Line Construction, the center will serve as the home of SPC’s new electrical lineworker program this year.