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Electric power apprentices get grounded in fundamentals at TEEX

3/22/2010 12:00 AM

It was designed to be an electric power lineman's worst-case scenario - troubleshooting a series of problems causing a power outage. The training was part of a "final exam" for eight Irby Construction Co. employees, all of whom were completing their fourth and final year of electric power apprenticeship training with TEEX.

The employees worked in teams to troubleshoot customer line service problems on electric meter trainers with transformer units under the watchful eye of TEEX Electric Power Instructor Jack Lemmon in the utility hangar at the Texas A&M Riverside Campus. They carefully checked the readings on the voltmeter and recorded their findings as they tried to identify the electrical problems that prevented a panel of light bulbs from working properly.

As the team solved a problem at the transformer, a new problem would occur at the meter. "It's pretty realistic," said one student. "When you fix one problem, you find another one."

All eight Irby employees successfully completed the apprenticeship training requirements to become journeymen linemen last week. To reach this goal, they attended three-week training sessions at TEEX on the construction and maintenance of electric power lines over a four-year period.

Kushna Morris of Miami, FL, said, "There is a lot of material to learn, but it's really important. You need to know what to do and what not to do. You don't usually have a second chance (with electricity)."

"It's a great program," said William Massey of Orlando. "I wouldn't want to do this work without this training. This gives you the reassurance that you know what you're doing. I don't think anyone should do this job without this training."

The Stuart C. Irby Co. is one of the top electrical distributors and electric power contractors in the United States with branches in 22 states. The company has been sending lineman to the TEEX apprenticeship training program for more than a decade.

Currently, 114 Irby employees are in the TEEX four-year electric power apprenticeship program, which is certified by the U.S. Department of Labor. Lemmon says completion of the TEEX apprenticeship program, along with 8,000 hours of on-the-job training, qualifies an employee to become a journeyman lineman, which is the highest level of electric power line work.

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