Powerline technician program gets zapped with cash
By Michelle Laramie
People who want to be the heroes who keep power running will soon be getting better training.
The St. Clair College powerline technician program has been awarded $2 million from the federal and provincial government to upgrade its Thames campus training facilities.
A powerline technician deals with the distribution of electricity, installing, maintaining and repairing poles and lines that bring hydro to the world.
Technicians are the unseen heroes that are out every day working to keep communities running, according to Mark Benoit, chairman of academic studies at St. Clair College’s Thames campus.
St. Clair College Thames campus is a leader in Ontario for powerline training and the expansion will push the program to a national level. Benoit is looking forward to the upgrade.
“We will be able to take it to the next level by putting up a physical building,” said Benoit. “It will be a state of the art facility.”
The 8000 square foot building will be constructed beside the already existing powerline field on campus. The indoor facility will house a training lab, vehicle and equipment storage, underground lab and a small indoor pole lab.
The program is a two year course creating graduates who have real on-the-job training. Last year, 80 students were enrolled in the course and 100 students were wait-listed.
“Students will come into a service centre like they would in a normal workplace and do job planning and training inside, then head outside and do field situations,” said Joe Schnekenburger, coordinator for the powerline technician course. He said having indoor and outdoor training creates a smoother, more on the job atmosphere for students.
Benoit said students in the program are often hired before even graduating because the job market has put students in high demand. The main driving force is aging infrastructure, the addition of green energy and urban expansion.
“The average age of a lineman is 50 years old, many of who are retiring. This puts an emphasis on hiring young employees,” said Benoit.
Employers are looking to hire people long-term for above average wages with good benefits and pensions.
The ground breaking ceremony for the new building will be on April 10. Construction is to be completed by April 2018 to accommodate students for the September 2018 school year.