Apprenticeships: Important Info for High School Students

Having exceptional tradespeople is critical for electric utilities, but in a tight labor market, how do we attract and keep highly-skilled workers? One way to do this is through in-house apprenticeships. Central Lincoln has apprenticeship programs for the trades of linemen, metermen, meter/relay technician, tree trimmer and maintenance wiremen.

Journeyman Maintenance Wireman, Justin, wiring on a substation panel
Journeyman Maintenance Wireman Justin, who works on substations, completed his apprenticeship with Central Lincoln last year.

Central Lincoln has developed apprenticeship programs in conjunction with the IBEW Local 659 (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers). These programs require a significant commitment from the apprentice and their coworkers. The apprentice not only gets on-the-job training but is responsible for homework and classwork. Coworkers provide on the job instruction while critiquing performance during the course of each apprenticeship.

Apprenticeships can last 2-4 years depending on the trade. This time can be extended because the apprentice must be passed forward by review every six months, or held back for unsatisfactory performance. During

on-the-job training, apprentices are paid a percentage of full journeyman pay, starting at 70% of journeyman (65% for beginning tree trimmer) and progressing to 100% of journeyman wage upon completion of the apprenticeship.

One way to gain entry to the apprenticeship program is by being hired in an entry level position at a utility and applying for an apprenticeship when one opens. There is a review and testing process that must be met before acceptance to an apprenticeship. One year of high school algebra is required. Stick with that math you may think you won’t need. Currently, Central Lincoln has five apprentices: four linemen apprentices, and one meter/relay technician.

Although the process of attaining the status of journeyman is both difficult and challenging, it is rewarding. While learning to perform a valuable service for your community, you also reward yourself and family in terms of compensation. So, when pondering what career path to take after high school, give some thought to earning journeyman status in the electric utility industry.

Written by Central Lincoln Board Secretary, Paul Davies, for the August 2019 issue of Boardlines