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Students Who Bring Wattage to Your Cottage

Otis Seiler

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In today’s society, electricity has become a commodity we come to expect in our daily lives. A constant flow of power is necessary for keeping food refrigerated, washing dirty clothes, and especially turning on the lights. So who are the mysterious people who bring us electricity? Well if you guessed Utility Linemen you’d be right!

Northeast Community College has one of the most renowned programs for utility line in this state and some say in the nation. Utility line instructor, Larry Oetken says, “What puts our college above and this program above the others, are the resources. The land and the buildings the college owns, a square section of the land where the building is at, plus the hundreds of acres on campus, so we can actually have a working environment instead of an ordinary pole field.”

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Being a lineman is a profession to be proud of and can be a very lucrative career field. Larry Oetken says there is a lot of satisfaction in the job. Utility Line workers are responsible for getting lights back on and people are often very grateful. That being said the job does not come without risks. Excess current exposed to the body can lead to injury and even death.

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Also linemen are expected to work with heavy machinery and in hazardous weather. Oetken says safety is a constant theme throughout every class period, “You cannot see electricity so we have to go through all of the procedures as if it was energized wires. So hopefully I have instilled safety upon them to where they can feel comfortable and confident when they go out to work with the real thing.”

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Larry Oetken watches his students perform their duties

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Students come from all over the state and nation to take advantage of the Northeast Utility Line program. Students from different walks of life join the program for varying reasons. First-year Student Kellon Hill says, “My uncle is a utility lineman and I’ve talked to him a lot about it and he says it’s one of the best trades you can go into.” Hill hopes to find a job in Colorado Springs after he graduates. Before admission to the program, students need the following minimum entrance scores: COMPASS—Math Pre-Algebra Test 34, Reading 64, Writing 39; or ASSET—Math Numerical Skills Test 35, Reading 36, Writing 38; or ACT—Math 16, Reading 14, English 14.

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Unfortunately, because of the dangers in the profession, there is only so much that can be learned in a classroom. Once students finish the first year of the program, they are required to work a paid summer internship at a power company of their choosing. The internship sharpens the skills of the students and turns them from confused first-year students into capable second-year students.

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Second year student, Austin Koehlmoos interned last summer and says, “I learned a lot on my internship. It was very hands on.” Koehlmoos says what he enjoys most is working in the open. “What I’ve always wanted to do is work outside, so this is a good profession where you can work outside every day and be out in nature.” He is on track to graduate in May, 2016 and wants to work at a Rural Electric Association (REA) after he graduates.
Utility line instructor, Kyle Voecks teaches first year-students the basics of climbing utility poles, and line construction. Voecks gets to know the first-year students and sees them transform as the program proceeds. Voecks says there is a huge difference from the first year to the second year students, they go from being kids to grownups.
If you’re interested in being a lineman and want more information about the Northeast Community College lineman program call 800-348-9033, or log on to the Northeast website for utility line information.

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Otis Seiler, Reporter

Staff Job Title: Reporter

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Students Who Bring Wattage to Your Cottage