Neil Vanwy, 25, of South Haven (left) and Nate Prenkert, 24, of Niles practice tying knots on a wooden cross arm during Line Mechanic D class Thursday at Lake Michigan College Bertrand Campus.
Neil Vanwy, 25, of South Haven (left) and Nate Prenkert, 24, of Niles practice tying knots on a wooden cross arm during Line Mechanic D class Thursday at Lake Michigan College Bertrand Campus.

Archived Story

Lineman course takes students to new heights

Published 6:00am Saturday, April 3, 2010

By KATIE JOHNSON
Niles Daily Star

Taxidermy may be Tony Taylor’s first profession, but it’s not his ‘career,’” he says. The 19-year-old Buchanan resident owns a taxidermy business, but wants to consider it a second job.

That’s because he has enrolled as one of 18 students in Lake Michigan College’s 30-week Line Mechanic D course.

“It’s something I’ve wanted to do for awhile,” Taylor said. ” It would be more of a career.”

The class and its three instructors made for an unusual sight Thursday morning as they practiced tying knots, climbing several 40-foot utility poles and riding in 58-foot bucket trucks on the Bertrand Campus lawn in Niles.

Instructor and retired journeyman Bob McAlister said his students are pursuing a “great field” of work. Although few power companies are hiring now, much of the workforce is older, which means new skilled workers will be needed.

Students have class from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. five days a week; each day begins with two hours of computer work and testing. They learn rescue procedure, climbing poles, ground work and also earn a commercial driver’s license so they can drive bucket trucks.
McAlister’s class was split into two teams Thursday, each competing in knot-tying skills. They strapped on tool belts and climbed poles. Each must learn six knots: clove hitch, overhand, square knot, figure-of-eight, bowline and timber hitch. American Electric Power has been helping out with classes, McAlister said.

Jason Gorske, 19, of Bridgman said Thursday that he enjoys the training.

“A friend referred me,” he said. “I like outdoors work. So far it’s going great.”
After the course is completed, McAlister will host a “linemen’s rodeo” to partner companies and graduates.

When the graduates are hired – usually at between $16 and $20 per hour, depending on the location – they will begin as Class D line workers and must complete four- to six-year apprenticeships. They will then become journeymen, who can earn as much as $37 per hour. McAlister said he has heard of journeymen earning as much as $100,000 per year.

“The goal is to get them a job,” McAlister said. “It beats the heck out of Mickey D’s.”

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  • grammi

    I think this is wonderful that work skills as an apprenticeship will benefit both young people as well as companies. Trade schools are terrific and will again be the basis of employment. Good luck to all this men.

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