Restoring Light: Newton High School Students Learn About Lineman CareerFree Access


Jerry LeDuc with Kansas Municipal Utilities in McPherson, second from left, watches as Newton High School student Eddy Southern tries to put a nut on a bolt while wearing electrical safety gloves during a tour last week at KMU. Wendy Nugent/Harvey County Now
 

McPHERSON—Jerry LeDuc with Kansas Municipal Utilities in McPherson chose Newton High School junior Eddy Southern to demonstrate the wearing of electrical safety gloves and sleeves as students from Hutchinson and Newton observed an overhead lineman workshop there last week.

A total of 58 linemen from around Kansas attended the workshop, while about 75 students from area high school JAG-K programs got a tour of the training and learned about what it’s like to be a lineman, said Brian Meek, KMU director of energy services.

The gloves protect linemen if they’re working on energized electrical lines.

“I learned how much volts are in one of those transformers,” Southern said after trying on the gloves and sleeves.

LeDuc had Southern put a nut on a bolt while wearing the large, clunky gloves, which Southern was able to do with a bit of time.

Meek said there were no students from McPherson there because they didn’t have school that day.

“This is a key part of what we do with the JAG-K program,” said Bev Mortimer, senior vice president of programming with JAG-K, adding that means showing students career opportunities, such as at workshops like the one at KMU.

Their primary mission is to make sure students are on track to graduate and explore career options, she said.

“When they get to hear it firsthand, I think they learn a lot more from that,” Mortimer said. “A lot of these kids aren’t aware of these kinds of careers and occupations.”

She said it’s exciting to watch the students get excited while at such events and that they have a hard time breaking away from the idea that college is the only option after high school graduation. Some of the kids learn they want to be in this career, she added.

“Kansas Municipal Utilities is the statewide association representing Kansas cities and other public and not-for-profit agencies involved in the ownership and operation of municipal utilities,” according to kmunet.org. “Formed in 1928, KMU provides assistance and information to members with regard to legislative and regulatory issues, training and educational programs, and numerous other services towards the advancement of municipal utilities and to achieve maximum benefits for the customer-owners served by our utilities.”

KMU’s mission is to support, unify and advance municipal utilities.

Meek told the high school students about the lineman job while they sat in a classroom-type setting before going into an area where a few booths were set up, and he and LeDuc talked more about being linemen.

“This is one of the jobs you can do for the rest of your life,” Meek said to the students, adding that regarding anything with energy or utilities, they train.

He told them everybody they see outside in cherrypickers at the workshop works for a city utility.

“Why do you go to work?” he asked students. “What do we all want?”

“Money,” one student replied.

Meek said the average wage for a journeyman lineman is about $88,000 a year with about four years experience but that wages start from $17 to $25 an hour. As the years go by, they get wage bumps, he said, and they go up quickly as linemen prove themselves. They make so much money because it’s dangerous work, as they can work on 15,000 volts or more.

Linemen don’t only have to be concerned about themselves—they need to have the safety of co-workers in mind, as well, and they can double their pay if they travel.

“In addition to the good wage, though, you’re providing a service to our community,” Meek said.

Having an older lady who’s on oxygen as her lifeline expressing gratitude for a lineman restoring electricity by bringing him hot chocolate and a cookie is job satisfaction, Meek said.

LeDuc also told students being a lineman is a gratifying job, as they have people in Florida now helping out after the recent hurricane went through. People can’t live without electricity, he said.

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