SVCC working to train future linemen

Published 6:04 pm Wednesday, January 18, 2017

rkforce retires, the Power Line Worker Training School at Southside Virginia Community College (SVCC) is working to address a need for trained labor.

“This program is important, not only because it provides southside residents an opportunity for a rewarding lifelong career, (but) it also provides our industry partners well-trained employees who are ready to work,” said Keith Harkins, vice president for workforce and continuing education at SVCC.

According to Harkins, the program stemmed out of a town hall meeting at SVCC’s Keysville campus during which the CEOs of Southside Electric Cooperative and Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative stressed the need for qualified line worker candidates. 

The program, which began in May, has already graduated 48 students in three cohorts. Of the first two cohorts, 29 of 30 graduates have full-time jobs in the industry. The school does not have employment data on the most recently graduated class of 18 students.

“I entered the program because I was interested in line work and it is a great career,” said Grayson Crawford, a 2016 graduate of Randolph-Henry High School and a recent lineman program graduate.

The program offers hands-on training in climbing techniques, electrical theory, aerial framing, rigging, operating utility service equipment, commercial driver’s license (CDL) and safety.

“It gives you the basics of climbing and line work that you would need to get a job,” said Crawford.

Crawford is currently employed at Southside Electric Cooperative in a position he found through an online job posting. He now works 8-hour days repairing lines or installing new services.

The program’s website cites the ability to work outdoors as a perk of the career. Crawford agrees that it’s the best thing about the job, and something he’s enjoyed since he was a child.

“Being outdoors all the time,” said Crawford. “I always loved being outdoors and climbing things.”

Crawford would have liked to have learned more about underground work during the training and he believes people would be shocked to learn about “the amount of current flowing through the lines.”

The school is making updates to the program this year, say college officials.

“We recognized early on the long-term success of this program would rely on our ability to provide quality accommodations at a reasonable cost for our students,” said Harkins.

The Power Line Worker Training School is located at the SVCC Occupational Technical Center at Blackstone’s Pickett Park, site of the former U.S. Army base, Fort Pickett. As a solution to the student housing shortage, SVCC teamed up with Nottoway County which provided project management and financial assistance to remodel a county-owned building in Pickett Park.
“This unique partnership provides our students in the Power Line Worker program, Diesel Repair program, CDL program, and the Automotive Repair program, all located at the SVCC Occupational and Technical Center, access to housing for $14 per night,” said Harkins. 

The next power line worker program, which runs Feb. 27-May 5, is full. The next sessions are scheduled for June 19-Aug. 30 and Sept. 12-Nov. 21.

To learn more about the SVCC Power Line Worker Training School, visit or contact Susan Early at (434) 292-3101 or email