Georgia Hummel loves solving problems.
“I was the kid,” she said, “who would tear a flashlight apart just to see how it worked.”
After college, she channeled that curiosity into a career at Duke Energy Indiana, the state’s largest electric supplier.
“I’ve always been an intellectual person,” she said. “So, being a line-worker really suits my personality because I learn something new every day.”
Hummel and other lineworkers build and maintain power lines and equipment that carry about 6,300 megawatts of electricity from a diverse mix of power plants to nearly 890,000 Hoosier homes and businesses.
Also fundamental to Duke Energy’s mission: Attracting a skilled workforce to help the company reach its clean energy goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. That means adding renewables across its six-state footprint while investing in grid upgrades to increase reliability and resiliency, strengthen it against storms, and give customers more options and control over their energy use and tools to save money.
While Duke Energy seeks a diverse workforce, Hummel said people are surprised to learn what she does.
“When I tell people I’m an apprentice lineworker at Duke Energy, they’re like, ‘What? No way!’ So, I absolutely get credit for branching out and doing something unexpected.”
She is detail-oriented and eager to lend a hand, said her supervisor, Dylan Osborne, someone who brings a “different flair” to the crew room and job sites.
“Georgia is great. She understands the work methods, dives right into the material and is very open to learning,” said Osborne, Customer Delivery Operations supervisor at the Greensburg Operations Center in southeastern Indiana.
Hummel considered going to medical school after earning a bachelor’s degree in biology at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind.
“Essentially, I was a pre-med student,” she said, “because I wanted to run the bypass machine for heart surgeries.”
As she worked toward that goal in 2021, family friends – all lineworkers – encouraged Hummel to give line work a try.
“I’d seen them in action at lineman rodeos and I was in awe of the energy, the competition. It was fun,” she said. “And they’d always talked about how good of a career it is.”
Hummel knew of a training program, with night classes, not far from the medical research lab where she worked.
“It’ll be a fun little experiment,” Hummel thought as she enrolled in the 16-week lineworker training program at Gateway Community & Technical College in Florence, Ky., which Duke Energy helped establish in 2020.
“Developing lineworkers is key as we build a green grid, improve infrastructure and serve customers,” said Scott Batson, senior vice president and chief distribution officer. “We’re working with community colleges and other organizations across our service areas to train the next generation of lineworkers. And we’re seeing people join the programs from all walks of life.”
From the classroom, where students learned about electricity, to climbing and installing power lines, Hummel loved every minute.
She earned a lineworker certificate and applied to Duke Energy. Her phone rang a few months later, in October 2021.
“I was ecstatic,” Hummel said of the job offer. “I could start my career, something that would set me up to look at houses and start an adult life.”
As a line apprentice, the first step in a lineworker’s career, she is learning the ropes. A typical day might be hooking up service for customers, turning power off or replacing transformers.
“Looking back, I’m glad things happened the way they did,” Hummel said. “I’ve always been an outdoorsy person, so I don’t think I would have been happy in the medical field.”
Knowing that customers rely on lineworkers to make repairs, especially after a storm or power outage, gives Hummel a deeper appreciation for the work.
“There’ve been numerous times that people come outside at three o’clock in the morning to give us a round of applause for getting their lights back on,” she said. “It’s satisfying.”
She also enjoys the camaraderie among her colleagues, a team of nine.
“It’s like having a whole bunch of brothers,” Hummel said. “We have fun, and we joke around with each other, but we also look out for one another.”
She wants others – women especially – to know they, too, can do the job.
“Just because it’s not a common field for women to be interested in, or one that is typically advertised to women, doesn’t mean it’s not a great career for women,” Hummel said.
In two years, she’ll have the knowledge and experience to become a journeyman, a lineworker who can troubleshoot and make repairs.
“I want to be classified as a top-level worker, to show anyone they can do this,” she said. “After 15 or 20 years, I may consider a management or supervisory position, maybe something in health and safety. That’s the great thing about working at Duke Energy. There is so much opportunity to expand and try new things.”