Lineworkers resume training

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Braden Adams receives valuable instruction as he continues to develop his skills as a lineman during his time at the Hoyt L. Williams Training Center. 

 

When COVID-19 presents challenges, South Carolina’s electric cooperatives seem to find ways to overcome them.

The pandemic—and the social distancing required to prevent its spread—forced a temporary halt to in-person classes at the Hoyt L. Williams Training Center, the facility operated by the Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina where many of the state’s lineworkers develop their skills, knowledge and earn lineman certifications. Throughout April, May and June—a period typically ideal for outside training due to the milder temperatures—classes were exclusively administered online.

“We shut everything down after the first week of March,” says Justin Tedder, director of the training center. “But a lot of these guys are in the Lineman Apprentice program. They’ve got 10 tests they’ve got to complete every year. The online classes allowed us to help them get through those modules, so they didn’t get behind.”

The Lineman Apprentice program, which follows the Northwest Lineman College curriculum, ensures that cooperative linemen are trained to perform a variety of tasks and duties associated with the operation and maintenance of facilities.

Tedder explains participants miss out on a crucial portion of the training when they’re not able to come to the center.

“We weren’t able to do any climbing (of poles) or bucket work,” he says. “Even with our classroom instruction portion, it’s so much better for them to be able to put their hands on the equipment, tools and material.”

By July, ECSC re-opened the facility under strict conditions. Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative had five of their linemen at the center going through the Apprentice II program—Chad Baker, Peyton Frisbee, Jake Gravely, Kolt Nabors, and Braden Adams. The cooperative sends about 15 employees to the training center each year.

“We line our training up at the first of the year, so we had everything set in motion before COVID hit,” says Sam McMillan, vice president of operations for Blue Ridge Electric. “But I’m glad that they did what they did for everyone’s safety. I was also glad to see it opened back up. They get a lot out of the virtual classes, but it’s not the same as being with your peers.”

The Hoyt L. Williams Training Center is a 12-acre site in West Columbia established to promote safety and develop career-oriented training for electric cooperative employees.