LMC grads to lasso lineman jobs
Published 3:35 am Friday, October 15, 2010
By JESSICA SIEFF
Niles Daily Star
Standing out from a cloudless blue sky Thursday morning, Sara DeWulf kept her balance against a telephone pole adorned with an orange dummy hanging at the side.
Methodically, with the clinking and clanging of different hooks making a sort of mechanical music for the crowd watching below, DeWulf freed the dummy from its harness and send it smoothly down the line, where a colleague was waiting.
DeWulf is just one of 18 students at Lake Michigan College participating in its line mechanic program.
The 36-week, 900-hour comprehensive program teaches skills which prepare students for jobs within utility, phone or cable companies.
DeWulf, the only female participant, and the rest of her class was taking part in the “Line Mechanic Rodeo,” a special event during which those students can show off their skills.
“Lake Michigan College offers training that puts line mechanic students in the forefront for being hired by the utility companies,” said Bob McAlister, a line mechanic instructor. “I’m elated that all 18 students made it through this tough program, because that’s unusual.”
During the demonstration a crowd of students, faculty, family and friends watched as those who took part in the program climbed up and down poles with ease, completing various tasks.
Among the spectators was Barry Visel, manager of community relations for Indiana Michigan Power (AEP), which supported the non-credit program.
“It’s kind of an aging workforce issue,” Visel said, talking about the program’s importance. “We have a lot of older line mechanics that are going to be retiring … It’d be really nice if we could fill that gap with local people.”
Based on the success of the first non-credit offering of the training program, the college has begun work to redevelop the program into a two-year program that will award an associate’s degree in skilled trade technology.
Screening of new students for the program will begin in January. It will include testing, interviews and physical tests and follows the screening requirements for utility apprenticeship applicants.
“We continually examine the programs we are offering at Lake Michigan College to ensure that they are meeting the needs of our local industries,” said LMC president Robert Harrison. “The energy industry as a whole is anticipating a wave of retirements in (a) critical skilled area of their operations. The line mechanic program is one example of how we are working with our energy partners to develop accessible training options to prepare local residents for these well-paying jobs.”