In March of 2003, Allen Anderson, CEO and Manager of South Kentucky RECC realized his industry had a problem. Both nationwide and statewide, many Journeyman Linemen were approaching retirement age and there was a great shortage of qualified entry-level candidates to take their place.
Allen discussed the problem with Somerset Community College’s Chief Workforce Solutions Officer David Wiles, and together they started putting together a plan to address this need. South Kentucky RECC’s Chief Operations Officer Carol Wright was asked to work with Wiles to explore the feasibility of developing a Lineman Training Center at Somerset Community College.
Meetings with utility industry representatives were held around the state and the idea was initially met with some skepticism. Eventually, though, rural electric cooperative corporations, municipals and utility contractors became strategic supporters and partners of the concept and the school. Having an eight-week lineman training program in Kentucky was very appealing to the industry, specifically since those trained could become an immediate asset to their employer.
One major obstacle in developing the program, though, was the need for an indoor training facility. American Electric Power (AEP) had such a facility in Groveport, Ohio and several visits were made to evaluate that facility. The decision was made to try and duplicate that building for the Lineman Program in Somerset. KCTCS architects looked at the building and determined it would take about three million dollars to construct. The mission then became to raise $2.5 to $3 million dollars to construct the facility, plus another two or three million dollars of equipment and supplies in order to get the school started.
Bennie Garland, who was on contract with South Kentucky RECC (SKRECC) and Lake Cumberland Area Development District (ADD), was able to secure loans and grants working through the ADD, SKRECC and the Somerset Pulaski County Development Foundation to fund a Regional High Growth Training Facility adjacent to the Valley Oak Technical Park located on Coin Road. Darryl McGaha, with the Cumberlands Workforce Investment Board (WIB), secured funding to purchase equipment and supplies, and many RECC’s and others in the utility industry donated much needed tools, supplies and equipment necessary to get the program up and running. Pulaski County Fiscal Court and the City of Somerset assisted the program with a CDBG grant for equipment and utility construction to the site. In addition, AEP donated their complete in-house curriculum (value of $500,000) to KCTCS to assist the college in developing a program.
After a period of more than four years, the building was completed and the first eight-week class got underway at Somerset Community College on September 2, 2008. The first class in the new indoor facility on Coin Road was held in March 2009.
The 22nd class of Lineman students is now underway at the center on Coin Road.
Somerset Community College is the only community college east of the Mississippi with a “state of the art indoor Lineman Training facility.” During the past four years, 337 students have graduated from the program and 275 of those have been placed in great careers in the electric utility industry, enabling the award-winning program to maintain an 82% job placement rate. Students enroll in the program from across Kentucky, as well as from surrounding states.
For more information about Lineman Training at Somerset Community College, please visit the Lineman Training Center on our website or www.linemantechcenter.com.