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Electrifying education: Line workers gather at CVTC to brush up on skills

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Electrifying education: Line workers gather at CVTC to brush up on skills

Image: Electrifying education: Line workers gather at CVTC to brush up on skills

Trevor Mahowald and Jon Droullard, apprentice linemen for their respective electric co-ops, worked to change out an electrical pole at Chippewa Valley Technical College during a recent Overhead Workshop.

The two men have done this before on the job, but not with 20 other line workers around to review their work.

Mahowald, 26, who works for Minnesota Valley Electric in Jordan, Minn.; and Droullard, 31, who works for Linn County REC in Linn County, Iowa; were two of 56 apprentices who participated in the course this spring.

They said they appreciate the additional education CVTC offers them in electrical power distribution.

“You get to work with people that you never would normally get to work with and see what they do,” said Droullard, who has about seven years in the business. “You see what they do and you learn different techniques and experiences they have had with certain jobs, like what we’re doing now.”

Mahowald, with five years of experience, said they all have their own way of doing things, and to see other people’s way is helpful.

“It’s nice too because you got five years of experience for me, seven for him and three form the next guy,” Mahowald said. “So you get years of experience added because it’s all different. In a way, instead of five years of experience, now I’m seeing 15.”

In addition, most line workers in the workshop received their schooling at different colleges, therefore, they might be working with different techniques, Droullard said.

“We don’t do this stuff every week (on the job),” Mahowald said. “It’s good to have the additional training.”

Kendal Schmidt, electrical line worker apprenticeship instructor, said line worker apprentices in their third and fourth years attend two weeks of courses twice a year to learn from instructors and each other. Schmidt said it takes a good amount of effort to coordinate the extra education, but it’s important.

“We break them out in crews and we assess their communication and processes; we practice emergency, real-life scenarios; and we practice bucket truck rescues,” Schmidt said. “It looks messy and crazy and hazardous, but that’s our goal. They have to come in, analyze all the hazards and communicate before touching anything.”

Mahowald and Droullard joked they just make sure they’re not doing anything they’re not supposed to be doing. And they admit they are a “special breed” because of the danger of their profession.

“I don’t know if that’s good or bad, but I think it’s good,” Droullard said with a laugh.

Business that gave donations to make this workshop possible:
Linn County Rural Electric Cooperative, Maquoteta Valley Electric Cooperative, Utility Sales and Service, Resco, Altec, VF Workwear, Milwaukee Tools and Irby.

Companies able to send bucket trucks to make the workshop possible: Chippewa Valley Electric Cooperative, City of New Lisbon, Clark Electric Cooperative, Eau Claire Energy Cooperative, Evansville Water and Light, Fennimore Utilities, Marshfield Utilities, Minnesota Valley Electric Cooperative, Oakdale Electric Cooperative, Polk Burnett Electric Cooperative, St. Croix Electric Cooperative and  Superior Water Light and Power.

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