If you like working outdoors, tackling challenges and making a steady salary with plenty of overtime and advancement opportunities, energy companies have a job for you. Or your neighbor or cousin or someone who just returned from active military duty.
Energy companies plan to hire lineworkers to fill a shortage that’s been building across the U.S. as the baby boom generation retires. Lineworkers are in the field daily constructing, maintaining and restoring equipment to ensure reliable energy service. It’s a demanding job that has its rewards, financially and in the accomplishment that comes from helping return life to normal after storms, accidents and natural disasters.
“Safety is really at the core of what we do,” said Michael Lewis, senior vice president and chief distribution officer for Duke Energy. “I look for people who like being part of a team. The work is complicated and can be hazardous, so we need people who take initiative and are able to grow.”
Duke Energy needs about 250 lineworkers in the Carolinas, another 75 in Ohio and Kentucky and about 50 in Florida. Pay starts at about $20 an hour and increases significantly depending on training and experience. With overtime, Lewis said, experienced lineworkers can earn six-figure salaries.
The company will hire people without energy company experience; newcomers go through weeks of extensive training. The job requires a high school diploma or GED and valid driver’s license. Some experiences − such as previous work or being a U.S. military veteran − can add value to a candidate's application. It usually takes four to six years to advance from groundman to lineworker with a variety of training, tests and on-the job challenges. Here’s what you can expect for each level:
Entry-level position requires training completed in three phases, each six months apart. Among duties, workers build and maintain power lines, and install and repair streetlights, transformers, meters and other equipment. They respond to calls when equipment fails and electrical service is interrupted.
New hires go to a four-week class to learn company policies, customer service training and job basics. Later phases develop skills such as climbing poles and disabling power lines.
Mid-level position. Training occurs in eight phases, each about six months apart. Apprentices lead groundmen in building, repairing and maintaining power lines, and they assist linemen.
On-the-scene leaders: must have completed groundman and apprentice training. Must be able to troubleshoot and repair distribution circuits and equipment and must be proficient in computer programs and willing to learn new technology. Lineworkers put in long hours when bad weather causes major outages, and they often travel to other areas in the system to restore power. Before achieving journeyman status, lineworkers undergo an intense three-day qualification process that involves performing tasks, passing a written test and being interviewed by a supervisory panel.
Lewis said Duke Energy is working with the U.S. Army’s Partner for Youth Success (PaYS) program to identify recruits who would be a good fit when they leave the military. The company also partners with high schools and colleges to find students interested in careers in the energy industry.
Lewis said he also encourages employees to get word out in their communities − at little league games, church and even at home − that jobs are available.
Like those in the public safety sector, lineworkers must work nights, weekends and holidays when they’re needed. They often form deep bonds with co-workers as they protect themselves and each other from hazardous situations.
“The part of the job I enjoy the most,” said Ivan White, construction and maintenance supervisor with Duke Energy Florida, “is the sense of kinship I feel with my fellow linemen.”
Lineworker training quiz
This is some of the information lineworkers need to know when they start their careers. How is your knowledge?
1. What is a load break tool?
a) A device that ensures bucket trucks aren’t overloaded
b) A tool that allows lineworkers to safely open a circuit on a power line by controlling the arc that is created
c) An app that lineworkers use to log off on their lunch hour
2. What are the five types of current?
a) Load, charging, magnetizing, circulating and fault
b) High-voltage, low-voltage, mid-level, intermediate and advanced
c) Load, static, direct, alternating and neutral
3. What is the proper ratio when positioning a ladder before ascending?
a) 4 to 1 (for every 4 feet up it must be 1 foot out)
b) 3 to 1 (for every 3 feet up it must be 1 foot out)
c) 2 to 1 (for every 2 feet up it must be 1 foot out)
1. Load break tool: b. Gives workers a safe method of opening a circuit
2. Five types of current: a. Load, charging, magnetizing, circulating and fault
3. The proper ratio when positioning a ladder: a. 4 to 1