Posted on Tuesday, May 2, 2017

COLLEGE SPOTLIGHT: WCC Begins New Powerline Worker Training Program

Submitted by Jill Ross, development services coordinator, Wytheville Community College

The new Powerline Worker Training Program at Wytheville Community College (WCC) now provides the opportunity for students to complete a 14-week program, earn industry-related credentials, and be prepared for employment with a possible starting salary ranging from $15-$20 per hour.

“There is a tremendous need for powerline workers,” said Mike Morrison, the Powerline Worker Training instructor at WCC. “I spent 21 years as a powerline worker, and it was a great career. I am looking forward to helping train students to fill jobs that will likely be coming available due to retirements in the industry.”

Morrison is no stranger to the industry and has an expansive depth of knowledge in the electrical field. He spent the last 13 years working with David H. Elliot, a full-service electrical contractor specializing in overhead and underground distribution, transmission, substations, lighting, traffic signaling, utility locating and industrial/commercial service.

According to Morrison and Perry Hughes, WCC’s director of workforce development, numerous area employers have expressed interest in this new program. “One employer has indicated that there will likely be at least 300 job openings in the near future,” said Morrison.

Industry support for the new program has been abundant, with Appalachian Power recently donating time to install poles for student instruction. The new pole yard is located on the WCC campus, and American Electric Power has committed to providing additional materials including wire, transformers, and pole hardware to the program.

“WCC is fortunate to have the perfect storm forming in regard to new program creation. We were able to find a seasoned instructor who is enthusiastic about teaching students his trade, and we have the industry supporting our program with time and supplies, and potential employment opportunities once our students complete,” said Hughes.

WCC’s program includes six weeks of truck driver training, OSHA 10 training, pole top and bucket rescue training, and CPR. Additionally, students will gain knowledge of climbing, electrical equipment, and powerline pole framing. Students who complete the course will earn industry-recognized credentials including OSHA 10 T& D, CPR, CDL, VDOT flagging, and NCEER certifications.

Graduates will be prepared to work in the field and can work either locally or anywhere across the country. Students who successfully complete the program and related licensure exams will also leave the program with industry-required training gear and hand tools needed for most jobs.

“This is a huge added benefit of the WCC program,” explained Morrison. “Having the needed equipment will likely give WCC program graduates a competitive edge as they seek jobs.”

The first class includes nine students and began March 20. Another class is scheduled to begin September 11. The majority of currently enrolled students received either full or partial financial assistance through On Ramp, the Workforce Credentials Grant, and FANTIC funds.

For more information about WCC’s Powerline Worker program, please contact Mike Morrison at (276) 223-4116 or at

    Mike Morrison, WCC’s Powerline instructor, demonstrates pole-climbing techniques on one of the newly installed 40-foot poles.'

Laura Osberger

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