Keeping The Lights On: Lineman camp helps provide essential workers

Published 1:46 pm Tuesday, April 9, 2024

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By Mike Barnhardt

Enterprise Record

The line was only a few feet off the ground, and there was no electricity.

But students from Davie and Davidson County schools had the chance to get a glimpse of what it’s like to be a lineman for an electrical company at a day camp at EnergyUnited’s Mocksville campus. The goal of the second-year camp is to garner interest in the career so enough repair workers will always be available “to keep the lights on.”

And it’s working.

Davie High student Brandon Wood was learning how to put on the protective gear, climb the pole and then make repairs to a line. It was Wood’s second year at the camp, and he takes the day off from regular classes seriously.

“Last year, this opened my eyes to a career,” he said, visibly sweating  although it was a cool and windy day. “I’ve done a ride-along (with EnergyUnited crews), and my heart’s set on this becoming a career.”

That career can be quite lucrative, said Steven McCachern, EnergyUnited’s vice president of energy delivery. Beginning workers can make up to $40,000 a year after completing a 6-9 week course. At EnergyUnited, that salary increases quickly after they complete an in-house apprenticeship program and gain certifications, with some veteran linemen earning over $100,000 per year.

Of the 250 or so employees in EnergyUnited’s 19-county region, 70-80 are linemen, McCachern said. “We’ve got a lot of linemen who are getting ready to retire. We’re always looking for new linemen.”

He enjoys the camp, especially the seriousness of the students, who are really interested in what linemen do every day.

They not only learned how to climb a pole and repair a line, they learned about underground lines, how the bucket truck works, how transformers work.

“We’re showing them what it’s like to be a lineman,” McCachern said. “It’s just a taste of what it’s like to do actual line work.”