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Are we forgetting the pre-apprentice worker?

Nicolle Prehn's picture
Office Administrator Portland General Electric

An administrative professional dedicated to regulatory compliance.

  • Member since 2021
  • 3 items added with 722 views
  • Jun 16, 2021
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Over the last several months I have seen Journeyman Lineman positions at dozens of utilities - Ohop Mutual Light, Mason PUD, Inland Power, City of Ellensburg, Homer Electric, Benton Co. PUD, Clatskanie PUD, Probst Electric Inc., - the list goes on. What I have not seen are pre-apprentice lineman positions from any of these same utilities. As an industry we are going to have to do better. You may not need a pre apprentice lineman today, but you are going to need a journeyman lineman tomorrow and all the hiring bonuses in the world are not going to magically increase the number of available workers. Perhaps it is time for utilities to re-evaluate how they have always done things and make an investment in the future? Open your doors an accept a second, or third, pre-apprentice lineman.  You may be creating the loyal and dedicated worker you are trying to purchase with a hiring bonus.

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jun 16, 2021

Interesting observation Nicolle-- why do you think this trend has happened? Are training budgets lower so utilities are more inclined to find someone who already has the expertise? Is there a risk to new workers in the industry that these departments are trying to avoid consciously? 

Nicolle Prehn's picture
Nicolle Prehn on Jun 16, 2021

Matt, I don't know the reason. I see companies, like PGE, with robust pre-apprentice training programs and others with nothing. I hope it is not that journeyman don't want the burden of training or that utilities don't want the expense.

Mark Silverstone's picture
Mark Silverstone on Jun 18, 2021

Is this simply a case of utilities being short sighted? Do they plan to simply pinch journeyman linemen from other utilities?  Or is it that they need government infrastructure funding and they doubt that it will materialize anytime soon?

Nicolle Prehn's picture
Nicolle Prehn on Jun 18, 2021

I believe the industry is being a bit short sighted.  If utility A has the employees they need, bringing in an apprentice - and potentially losing them at the end of the four years - is an expense they don't want to shoulder.  Losing the employee is a product of poor hiring and not creating an inclusive work environment.  If you hire a group of apprentice workers from out of state, you need to expect some or all will go back to their home state.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jun 21, 2021

It's interesting as well because this isn't a naturally competitive industry where, for example, Apple would hate training up and building up a new employee only to see them go to competitor Google. Rather, mutual aid and collaboration on shared challenges often highlight how the power sector is more about a rising tide raising all ships. 

Rao Konidena's picture
Rao Konidena on Jun 24, 2021

Nicolle

Kudos to you for raising an issue that frankly I didn't realize is a gap. You are absolutely right when the utility provides a hiring bonus and or accepts a second or third pre-apprentice lineman - they have a loyal and dedicated worker. I wonder how many utility executives are reading this post.

I am also wondering with the rise in technology (thinking drones here) for transmission line maintenance, and automation, I am thinking lineman of the future should be well versed in using new tools. What do you think?

Sam Held's picture
Sam Held on Jul 13, 2021

Nicolle,

I know that my company, TVA (one of the large utilities), hires apprentices classes annually.  We base the size of the class off of a pipeline model we have that takes into account attrition modeling.  That is because our program is a four-year DOL approved apprentice program.  We have not experienced any problems hiring because we have strong partnerships with unions, like the IBEW and also get applicants from other training programs.  If you visit the Center for Energy Workforce Development website, you will also find that most utilities, especially the large ones have partnered with local community colleges to train the basic skills of the lineman to prepare them to become journeyman-level.  So I think unless you factor those in, there is need for this skillset and for utilities to pay attention to this group of employees, but not a crisis yet.

 

Sam Held  

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Jul 13, 2021

Thanks for the added perspective, Sam. Does being a larger utility with the type of resources that TVA give you some abilities to invest in the apprentice class in a way smaller utilities can't? Are you aware of any collaborative efforts that work with the smaller operators? Because, of course, the pipeline of workers impacts the whole utility in training the next generation-- no matter which utility they start at!

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