Having moved the Odessa College Electrical Lineman program next to Gregory D. Williams Hall, things are a little more posh for students and more cost effective.
Associate Dean of Continuing Education Louis Gonzales said something that benefits the students is that when they were at the previous location near I-20 and West County Road, that was pretty much all they ever saw.
“They never stepped foot on campus,” and they were far away from the campus and campus resources. Gonzales noted that students were in portables and technology access wasn’t great and now they can post more YouTube videos on specific things they are learning.
Gonzales said the new location is much better.
“They’re in our computer labs doing the work they needed to do,” he added.
They have a protected area in case of bad weather. The climbing yard with 21 poles is nearby where students can practice doing the work of linemen.
“Now they’re part of the campus and our student life,” Gonzales said.
He added that moving the program has made it more visible to people in town.
The OC lineman program started in spring 2017 with 11 students. Currently, there are 17 students enrolled. They are averaging 15 to 19 students. There is typically a woman in each class. It’s capped at 20 and the course lasts 16 weeks.
Class meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. and on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Typically, the instructors are Oncor employees.
The cost is $8,000 and includes their safety belts, their boots and certain tools. The boots have steel toes, but also a steel plate that runs through the bottom and hooks that help them climb. They wear gloves that are rated for 26,000 volts and their vacuum sealed, fire retardant clothing.
Gonzales said companies told them it would be beneficial for the students to have the clothing and tools because it would make them more marketable.
“I think it’s been a big benefit for all of our students, so now they have their own gear. They’ve broken the gear; they know how to use it. They know how to work with the tools, so they’re much more efficient in what they do,” Gonzales said.
During the course, safety is emphasized. They talk about tools, electricity, whether it’s overhead or underground and transformers, how to dig and set posts and how to operate and maneuver a bucket truck. They still have to learn how to climb because there are times when a bucket truck can’t get where it needs to go, Gonzales said.
The belts the linemen have around them are like seat belts meant to catch you if you start falling. If someone is climbing and gets electrocuted the goal is to get them down in less than five minutes and an ambulance on the way.
The linemen typically travel in pairs for safety.
Gonzales added that the companies are ready to scoop them up before they even finish. The same is true for the truck driving program.
“Once they know a new cohort of students have started, they’ll come out. They’ll start … recruiting, if you will. It’s almost like an NFL Combine. They’re watching … they’re selecting people and they’re … interviewing them. … A lot of our students either have jobs or interviews lined up before they even finish the program … Our students get excited when we have employers coming out, watching, looking and talking to them. As part of the program … our instructors work with them on resumes. They help them prep resumes” and offer preparation for interviews, Gonzales said.
Companies that look for OC linemen, along with Oncor, are Pike, Eastern New Mexico Electric and Borderline, which is south of Alpine.
The linemen are excited about what they do; they care about each other and there is a lot of camaraderie. They want to make sure everyone gets home safely every day.
“Everybody in that field loves that work. … If you’re at a job site and they’ll all get off, but they put on their hard hats and they’re all huddled up together. … It’s cool. They care about each other,” Gonzales said.