Careers On the Line

Article by Heidi Butler. Photos by Patricia Canavan.
October 16, 2013

"You picked a good career," Steven Lutz told the men enrolled in the new lineman training programDon Heller installing secondary cable on a transformer pole at Northampton Community College.  "I live a good life thanks to line work," the journeyman lineman reported. 

Lutz was one of several representatives from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and companies that employ linemen who came to Northampton on October 15 to talk with students about what's required to succeed in a field that is expected to grow by 15% from 2010 to 2020.

The pay is good.  According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics the median pay for installing and repairing electrical lines is $54,000 per year.

Working atop 40 foot poles with thousands of volts of electricity is not without risks, however.  "It's a dangerous business," said Daniel Riesen of Henkels McCoy.  "The more you know about your business, the better."

Riesen was one of severalChris Bibleheimer and Jonathan Shupp installing a nut. speakers who talked about safety as a priority.  "It's something we look for," said Bill Shaw of MJ Electric  "We don't have safety programs.  We have a safety culture."

"Safety is #1," agreed Keith Chipps of Pike Electric Corporation.

Other qualities employers said they look for in the hiring process are "efficiency and proficiency," initiative and a willingness to work hard.

Before their presentations, the panelists stood outside Hartzell Hall to watch teams of students  demonstrate what they've learned so far.

They were impressed. "You've got a great set-up out here, and great instructors," said Shawn Karch of Keco Energy.  "You're looking good."

After completing the 12 week course at Northampton, graduates hope to land positions as trainees for electric and cable companies with the ultimate goal of becoming journeymen lineworkers.

"Once you become a journeyman lineworker, you can go anywhere," said Kevin Durkin of PPL.



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