Holmes CC, Yazoo Valley Electric celebrate 10-year partnership
Holmes Community College, Yazoo Valley Electric celebrate 10-year affiliation. By Elissa Fulton
Electric Cooperative of Mississippi
One of the most important qualities to look for when hiring linemen is attention to detail and employees who know the importance of safety – not only for themselves, but for those around them.
In order to provide young people with the tools to have a successful career in line work, Yazoo Valley has been an enthusiastic supporter of the Workforce Development Training Program for linemen at Holmes Community College in Goodman.
This year marks the 10-year anniversary for the successful program. Instructors Clarence "Mac" McBride and Lamar Dumas are currently training the 21st class.
The 16-week program offers students with fundamental hands-on training. While enrolled, they earn a Class A commercial driver's license, knowledge of the Electric Safety Code, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards and rules pertaining to the different types of utility providers they could potentially find employment with. They also learn how to operate heavy machinery used in line work, first aid and CPR training and pole climbing skills.
"The 16-week course is equivalent to about 18-months of on the job training," said McBride, head instructor at the lineman school. "It's a big advantage for employers because these students know many of the basics and can step right on in the job and take off. It's a really rewarding career, and if I had to do it all over again, I believe I'd try it."
McBride came to the program after a 38-year career with Entergy Mississippi until retiring in 2008. He teaches two classes per year through the college along with Dumas who retired in 2011 from Natchez Trace Electric Power Association after 32 years of service.
Together they teach the students every aspect line work.
"Many of the students that we get here, this is kind of the last chance to find a decent quality job. Because some of them have been the academic route and didn't adjust, and they come here, they like the outdoors and many of them find what they like. I'm really glad they have this workforce program set up for these guys," said Dumas.
The program accepts only 14 students per semester and it is an extremely competitive entry process. Earl Sysco is a program coordinator and works part-time at the school. He aids in the selection process for the students that attend each semester.
"We advertise an informational meeting in local newspapers before the start of each semester. Yazoo Valley sends a representative to talk to the students and we tell them about the good and bad aspects of a career in line work. We explain to potential students that it's a career, not just a job," said Sysco.
"We give them an application, and then they must bring that back along with their high school transcripts, physicals and their CDL permit. It's a lengthy process. Then we interview them. We interviewed 28 students for this class of 14. If you start with good people, you'll have good employees to come out of the program."
About half of the linemen at Yazoo Valley Electric have completed the lineman program at Holmes, including Line Foreman Hunter Vandevere. He was in the first class that graduated in 2008.
"This program has come a long way from the first class in 2008. These students have more to work with," said Vandevere. "I went into the workforce more prepared, but there was those that dropped out of the program. Some couldn't climb poles or they were scared of heights. Some people just aren't comfortable on a pole. At least you learn the basics of the job here and know what you'll be doing and if you are cut out for this type of work, or if it's even something you want to do. The program was very valuable for me when starting my career."
Yazoo Valley Electric provides materials and support for the program. Since the beginning, the program has seen over 300 students and an extremely high rate of job placement.
The instructors contact contractors, electric cooperatives, investor-owned utilities and municipalities for each of their classes, and make a great effort to help the students find employment once they receive their certification.
"Probably half of the linemen we have at our cooperative have come through this program," said Dennis McFee, manager of member services. "If we have an available position, this is one of the first places we seek employees."
McFee attended the program in 2009 and worked on the lines for several years before joining the executive staff at Yazoo Valley Electric. "It's a very rewarding career and opens up many opportunities," he said.
Yazoo Valley Electric is proud of the relationship that they have forged with Holmes Community College to train qualified line workers. We hope that the relationship continues to grow and that the program will be successful in the years to come.
For more information about Holmes Community College Workforce Development contact Mandy Clayton Burrell at (662) 472-9172 or email email@example.com.