When COVID-19 presents challenges, South Carolina’s electric cooperatives seem to find ways to overcome them.
The pandemic forced a temporary halt to in-person classes at the Hoyt L. Williams Training Center, the facility operated by The Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina where many of the state’s lineworkers develop their skills and knowledge and earn lineman certifications. Throughout April, May and June—a period typically ideal for outside training due to milder temperatures— classes were administered online.
“We shut everything down after the first week of March,” says Justin Tedder, director of the training center. “But a lot of these guys are in the Lineman Apprentice program. They’ve got 10 tests they’ve got to complete every year. The online classes allowed us to help them get through those modules, so they didn’t get behind.”
The Lineman Apprentice program, which follows the Northwest Lineman College curriculum, ensures that cooperative linemen are trained to perform a variety of tasks and duties associated with the operation and maintenance of facilities. Throughout the four-year program, apprentices receive field training in the various tasks, work procedures and skills of the trade as well as receive classroom instruction in power delivery.
By July, ECSC re-opened the facility under strict conditions, such as limiting the number of attendees for each class, scanning each participant’s temperature before they enter the building and requiring protective masks when necessary.
One of those cooperatives sending their lineworkers to train this summer was Little River Electric Cooperative. Andrew Mitchell and Matthew Rochelle participated in Apprentice 2 training while Gavin Magaha, Cruse Smith and Levi James received training for Apprentice 3.
“Training at the center is very important for the future and safety of the co-op and our lineworkers,” says Josh Strickland, safety director for Little River. “We are glad the training center was able to open back up under the pandemic circumstances.”