New Lineman Training Program Keeps Students Reaching High

July 29, 2004 -- Posted at 5:09 p.m. CDT

NEWPORT -- Electricity is one of those things you really don't appreciate until you lose it. A new program that is training the next generation of those that keeps bringing power to our lives.

"As you and I know, anytime you're without electricity, these folks become one of the most important people in your life," laughed ASU-Newport Chancellor Dr. Larry Williams.

Rain, snow or shine, these are the guys that keep our lives running...they're the linemen.

"Within the next five years a big majority of our linemen will be retiring," said Gene Sweat of the Farmer's Electric Co-Op in Newport.

The Electrical Cooperatives of Arkansas and ASU-Newport have teamed up to solve that problem.

"We started working with the Electrical Cooperatives of Arkansas about a year and a half ago.  Talking with the managers about the educational programming to be involved. The types of emphasis in the curriculum that they would want, the facilities that would need to be in place and the equipment that was needed," said Williams.

And it's not as easy as it looks. Students spend 9 months in a classroom and then three more months interning.

"It's going to be a pretty tough course and everyone's looking forward to doing it so far," said student Todd Liles.

Learning to operate equipment such as a bucket truck is just one of the many things students are going to experience during the one-year program.

"I would say out of this class there will be 100% employment rate because right now the students who have been selected for enrollment in the program are all 100% currently employed by the Electrical Cooperatives of the state of Arkansas," said Williams.

"There's always a job opportunity somewhere for you," agreed Liles.

The cost of the program is $3,000 dollars per student.  The Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas does offer full scholarships for anyone interested in applying.