Powering through

Published 1:19 am Saturday, March 13, 2021

Versailles, Ky. — As many parts of Kentucky went dark for several days, and sometimes weeks, Kentucky’s line workers went into action. Dealing with ice, snow, downed trees and power lines, they persevered and got heat and lights back on for thousands.

Kennedy Marcum graduated from the Ashland Community and Technical College line worker program. He had been working in North Carolina, but during the ice storm, he worked with his local fire department in northeastern Kentucky helping clear roads and keeping firefighters safe from downed lines.

“Even though I wasn’t able to go out with my old crew, I was still able to help my community,” Marcum said.

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But Marcum did get to thank his crew, which eventually got the power back on at his home. While he was helping the fire department, Marcum got a text with a photo of them waving at him from the end of his driveway.

Marcum is one of many graduates of line worker programs offered by several colleges within the Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KCTCS). The programs are short — nine-16 weeks depending on the program selected. Most students who complete the program have jobs waiting for them or are employed quickly after they graduate because there is a shortage of trained line workers.

One employer that hires KCTCS grads is East Kentucky Power Cooperative.

“KCTCS is helping to equip Kentucky residents with the knowledge and skills they will need for the workplace today and well into the future,” Nick Comer, EKPC External Affairs manager said.

“As an employer of KCTCS graduates, East Kentucky Power Cooperative has seen firsthand that they are prepared for the workplace. KCTCS equips its graduates with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed.”

Jarrett Van Cleve, a graduate of the Madisonville Community College (MCC) program, said he wishes he’d gone into line work years ago. Instead of working high above ground like he does now, Van Cleve was working below ground as a coal miner. The last time he got laid off, Van Cleve enrolled in the MCC program. A few days after he completed the program, he was hired by Groves Construction.

“Getting involved with the MCC program is the absolute best career decision I’ve made,” Van Cleve said. “Power line work is the best field. It can take you anywhere in the world.”

Van Cleve also said the salary is the best he’s ever made. According to Salary.com, the median line worker salary is $75,000. For those who are willing to travel and work to restore power after natural disasters, salaries can be even higher.

KCTCS colleges use proven training methods delivered by instructors with extensive experience in the utility industry. Upon completion of the program, students have the training needed to go directly to work in the utility industry. Most colleges include a commercial driver’s license (CDL) module as part of the program as well.

The following KCTCS colleges offer the line worker program:

• Ashland Community and Technical College

• Big Sandy Community and Technical College

• Gateway Community and Technical College

• Hazard Community and Technical College

• Jefferson Community and Technical College

• Madisonville Community College

• Maysville Community and Technical College

• Somerset Community College

The college websites have more information about the program, how to apply and who to contact with questions.