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Electrical lineman trade in growing need of workers, particularly in Utah Valley

Jan 04, 2020 03:00PM ● By Arianne Brown

It was a work of precision that required the skilled workmanship of employees of South Utah Valley Electric Service District.

A fire burned nearly 9,000 acres on the southeast side of West Mountain last August, causing electrical lines along the hillside to burn. Hundreds of West Mountain residents were out of power, and the only way to restore it was through the skills and know-how of SESD linemen.

Due to the nature of the hillside, with loose rocks and dirt, helicopters had to drop the poles to the placement areas so workers could hike up the hills to post the poles by hand.

According to SESD employee, Mark Holdaway, this was a job that only those with the right skills and knowledge could do.

The problem the company ran into was not enough skilled hands to do it all in a timely manner, and with the population growing, the issue may worsen.

“What you have to understand is that along with the work that needed to be done on West Mountain, there were regular, everyday house fixes that our workers needed to attend to,” Holdaway said. “With the valley growing, and more and more residents needing power to be connected, among other things, we need more workers to be able to do that, and as it stands, there simply aren’t enough people getting into the lines worker trade.”

What Holdaway said is true, and there are numbers to prove it.

According to recent growth reports in Utah, Utah County alone is projected to add more than 1 million new residents to reach 1.6 million by 2065.

Reports also found that over the next fifty years, 37 percent of the state’s population growth is projected to be in Utah County.

This means a growing number of residents will need power connected, more poles will need to be placed, more lines will need to be maintained. Add to that natural disasters, weather and other means having the potential to cause power outages, not to mention the retirement of older line workers, the need for more skilled linemen is growing.

 

So, what is a lineman?

A Lineman is responsible for the install, repair and maintenance of high-power above or below-ground electrical cables and distribution lines (cable, internet and phone) and distribution lines.

Places of employment include utility companies, electrical contractors, telecommunications companies or local or state government agencies.

 

What does it take to

become a lineman?

Entry level workers usually require a high school diploma and extensive on the job training and even apprenticeships under a Journeyman lineman.

A two-year degree in electronics or electrical contracting is helpful but not required.

If the eventual goal is to become a journeyman lineman, four years of paid apprenticeship on-the-job training (7,000 hours) as well as in-classroom training will be required.

 

What is the average pay of a lineman?

According to Glassdoor.com, apprentice linemen can make between $36,000 and $66,000 a year with the average being $60,000 nationwide.

A journeyman lineman can make between $52,000 to $130,000 per year, with the national average being $88,000. (Brown is a Serve Daily contributor.)