(MARSHALL) – Area electrical providers continue searching for qualified workers to replace an aging workforce. Texas State Technical College stands ready to fill the void.
Students in TSTC’s Electrical Lineworker Technology program prepare for the field by taking classes in electrical calculations, live line safety, distribution operations, electrical theory and testing, along with other topics. The program had more than 20 graduates in 2016.
“For the right person who is dedicated to entering the industry, the possibilities of employment are almost endless,” said Eric Carithers, TSTC’s statewide department chair for Electrical Distribution and Industrial Systems. “Our students coming through the program are challenged with real-life scenarios that they will most certainly encounter when they go into industry.”
Texas had more than 10,900 electrical power line repairers and installers — the most in the nation — earning an annual mean wage of $53,780 as of May 2015, according to recent figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The Woodlands-Houston-Sugar Land and Dallas-Plano-Irving areas had the largest concentration of lineworkers in Texas, with more than 4,600 as of May 2015, according to the labor statistics bureau.
The number of electrical lineworkers in Texas is expected to grow to 13,780 by 2024, according to projectionscentral.com, a clearinghouse of national and state job market predictions.
The Panola-Harrison Electric Cooperative in Marshall services customers in Harrison and Panola counties in Texas and Caddo and DeSoto parishes in Louisiana. The cooperative has more than 30 employees servicing more than 13,600 commercial and residential members.
“We have had good success in recent years hiring young linemen,” said Kathy Wood, a general manager at the electric cooperative. “We have quite a bit of people that apply to work for Panola-Harrison. Our culture here is different than an investor-owned company. We are small and more family-oriented. We have hired TSTC linemen in the past.”
Southwestern Electric Power Company (SWEPCO) based in Shreveport, Louisiana is one of seven regional electric utilities for Ohio-based American Electric Power. The company has recruited several TSTC graduates for jobs in power plant operations, maintenance, instrumentation and electrical work. SWEPCO provides electrical services to several counties in Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas.
“Our economy depends on electricity — there can’t be water supplies, information technologies or even health care without it,” said SWEPCO President and Chief Executive Officer Venita McCellon-Allen. “With a local economy fueled by electricity, there is a need for highly skilled craft jobs and apprentice linemen programs to feed this growth. And with the average age of a utility lineman at 50 years old, this intersection of growth and an aging workforce has presented us some challenges to providing skilled lineworkers for today and the future.”
SWEPCO contributed $350,000 in early 2008 to help start the Electrical Lineworker Technology program at TSTC. The Marshall Economic Development Corporation donated five acres for the technical college’s outdoor Electrical Lineworker Technology training lab in 2009.
Carithers said plans are being developed to have students learn CPR/first aid and earn traffic control certifications.
TSTC students can graduate with the associate degree or certificate in Electrical Lineworker Technology and have 30 hours of Occupational Safety and Health Administration training.
“TSTC makes our communities strong and vibrant through valuable skills training and workforce development,” McCellon-Allen said.