Students Who Earn Pre-Apprenticeship Certificate Will Be Attractive Candidates
Good pay. Important work. Physically challenging. These are just a few of the reasons that many young people are attracted to a career as a lineman for a utility.
“It’s a brotherhood,” said Jason Atherton, technical training manager at SMECO. “People require electricity. Linemen are the people who go out there and make sure you have it.”
Utilities like SMECO are aware that there is a great deal of interest in linemen positions, which, in Maryland, earn an average of $35.96 an hour, according to Indeed, an online job site that tracks salary data in certain industries. SMECO, for instance, reports receiving hundreds of applications whenever they announce a new training class for apprentice linemen.
The problem is that though hundreds apply for the training class, too few applicants have the skills necessary to even start to learn the job, according to SMECO representatives. “Some have no idea how to properly climb a ladder or use a shovel,” Atherton said. “All utilities are having a hard time finding qualified applicants.”
In response, the College of Southern Maryland (CSM) has worked with SMECO to create the Pre-Apprenticeship Program to provide practical electrical utility worker training. The 12-week program of courses, which will be offered at CSM’s newly opened Regional Hughesville Campus, focuses on skills needed for candidates for utility training programs but also skills that are desirable in any of the trades. Completers of the program will earn a continuing education certificate from CSM and receive hiring preferences from SMECO. SMECO reached out to all regional electrical utilities and contractors to alert them to this new resource and encouraged them to support the program.
“SMECO has been collaborating with CSM on a program of study to meet a very important need … What they have come up with is truly exciting,” said SMECO President and CEO Joe Slater, announcing the Pre-Apprenticeship Program at the April 25 dedication and ribbon-cutting for CSM’s new Center for Trades and Energy Training (CTET) at the Regional Hughesville Campus.
“Students will spend 12 weeks learning core construction skills and safety practices here in the CTET,” Slater said, “And then they will go across the road to the SMECO’s lineman training yard for basics in electrical utility work, including pole climbing, which is the great leveler. SMECO will be providing the electrical utility practicum as a community service as a good partner with CSM.” Atherton will serve as the SMECO instructor for the 40-hour field practicum portion of the course.
“It involves a lot of safety training,” said CTET Director Bruce Posey about the certificate requirements. The courses required for the certificate will cover topics such as excavation safety, working in confined space, first aid and CPR and core construction skills.”
SMECO has demonstrated additional support for the Pre-Apprenticeship Program by funding two scholarships to assist promising students who demonstrate financial need and are from an underserved population for the fall 2017 semester. In addition, scholarships are available through the CSM Foundation.
Employers who hire students from this pool are getting a new employee with the training necessary to be placed on the job site almost immediately.
“If you don’t have any skills, it’s tough to find a job,” Posey said. “We can help you get the skills needed to be considered for employment.”
The Pre-Apprenticeship Program will be offered at the Regional Hughesville Campus beginning late summer/early fall, and students may register now. To learn more about the scholarships, contact the CSM Foundation at 301-934-7649. For information on CSM’s Pre-Apprenticeship Program, visit http://bit.ly/2sGBrfp.