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How 2 Community Colleges Are Training Workers to Meet the Demand for High-Wage Line Worker Jobs

How 2 Community Colleges Are Training Workers to Meet the Demand for High-Wage Line Worker Jobs

Delgado Community College in New Orleans and Fletcher Community College in Schriever both kicked off their certified line worker training programs in January. The programs — a 16-week curriculum at Fletcher and a 25-week night program at Delgado — are providing the foundation for graduates to begin a line worker career as a helper or apprentice for an electric utility company. Graduates also receive job-placement assistance and opportunities to network with hiring managers at utility companies.

“It’s an excellent opportunity,” says Fletcher workforce-development coordinator Crystal Chiasson. “These are high-wage, high-demand jobs.”

Meeting the Demand

The program was set in motion when a 2017 assessment by Entergy determined Louisiana power companies would need an additional 550 line workers over the next five years. The companies turned to Louisiana’s community and technical colleges to help develop a workforce-development pipeline.

Chiasson says school officials spent months planning and implementing a 600-hour curriculum in conjunction with the Louisiana Energy Workforce Consortium, a group of electric utilities, municipal co-ops and large contractors. Entergy and other Louisiana power companies helped secure $300,000 in tools and equipment for the training program.

High-Wage Opportunities

Graduates obtain NCCER certification, are qualified for employment as a line helper and receive job-placement assistance. Applicants should have a high school diploma or equivalency, be willing to work at heights, be drug-free and willing to submit to a pre-program drug screen and periodic random drug screening. They must also be willing to submit to a background check that verifies education, driving records and criminal history.

Chiasson says most students come in with little to no experience with the industry, but are brought up to speed rapidly. “They come in with no knowledge of the field … and by week three they are climbing,” she says.

The students move through the program with the knowledge that they’ll have an excellent chance to start a career in a high-paying field. A line helper or apprentice can start out at $33,000 plus overtime, but the salaries climb quickly with experience. A line worker with up to six years of experience typically earns $57,000 annually, while a senior-level crew leader can make $79,000.

The program places a heavy emphasis on job-placement assistance. Two months before the end of the program, Fletcher invites power company representatives to talk to the students about how to apply for jobs. The hiring managers observe the students climbing before networking with each of the students. “Shortly after the events, the companies came back and made job offers,” Chiasson says. “These students got multiple job offers — some of them up to four offers.”

Early Success

More than a dozen students are currently wrapping up the first round of the training program at Delgado. At Fletcher, the initial round of the program began in January and ended in early May, with all nine students graduating. “One hundred percent got jobs,” Chiasson says. Classes ended May 8, “and most of them were working by May 14,” she says.

Chiasson says that while the program suggests a $33,000 base salary for its graduates, all of the students in the first graduating class secured offers well above that. “Our goal is to train them and get them hired,” she says. “While we don’t guarantee you’ll get hired, the opportunities are out there. You just have to do the work.”