PHS partners with Chain Electric for lineman programBy HASKEL BURNS,
A partnership between Petal High School and Chain Electric has provided a new Linemen Program to help train a new generation of electric linemen for the Pine Belt.
Eleven students from the high school’s Career and Technical Education Department are working in the classroom and in the field with Blake Jones, general foreman at Chain Electric, to earn college credit and possible job opportunities after graduation.
“There’s a (school) district on the Coast that was doing something very similar to this with Ingalls Shipbuilding down in Jackson County,” said Wayne Pittman, supervisor for the school’s CTE department. “I wanted to do something like that up here in our area, with a local business in the Pine Belt area.
“So we started talking with Chain, and they were very interested in doing it. As we talked and progressed through it, everything just kind of fell into place.”
Classes start at 7:30 a.m. every day throughout the school year, with instruction taking place in the classroom and hands-on training conducted in the field near the school’s transportation department. Classroom activities consist mainly of safety courses, while field training sees students setting poles and other linemen duties.
“We go over specs, we go over transformer hookups, wire sizes, voltages, and which size rubber gloves go with the voltages we’re working with,” Jones said. “We’re going to be spending a lot more time out in the field, going through different things like different framings, whether it’s going cross-arm or we’re going vertical construction.”
Upon completion of the Lineman Program, students are eligible to be hired by Chain Electric or other electric providers. In addition, school officials have partnered with Pearl River Community College, which will offer graduates of the program 14 credits in PRCC’s Utility Lineman program.
“This is the opportunity of a lifetime,” Jones said. “I went through a lineman program at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College when I first got into this line of work, and I really wish that we would have had this opportunity whenever I was in high school.
“I think these kids get a big jumpstart on the ones that are going to go through the college course. Their decision doesn’t have to be made right now – they’re getting a little taste of it to see if this is really want they want to do.”
Pittman said Chain Electric has been a huge help in establishing the new program, in part because the company is supplying the training and most of the supplies at no cost to the school.
“If it wasn’t for them providing the trainer and the other resources, I don’t know if we could do this,” he said. “And the reason they have such a vested interest in it is because there’s a shortage of lineman out there, for them and for all your (Rural Electric Associations).
“A lot of the companies, they need linemen, and there’s just not a big pool of linemen out there. So this will benefit them – they can hire these kids after they graduate. So it’s a good opportunity for them to help with that need in their industry.”