CNM Ingenuity, in partnership with the New Mexico Rural Electric Cooperatives Association (NMRECA), is providing hands-on, high-quality training to the inaugural cohort of students in the Lineworker Pre-apprenticeship program.
“Around the state the conversation around apprenticeships is growing,” says CNM Ingenuity Program Director Dawnn Moore. “Bringing on a lineworker pre-apprenticeship program that feeds directly into the 15 rural cooperative apprenticeships gives students in this immersive program an advantage when looking for employment opportunities.”
At the Electric Lineworker Power Training Facility, which operates at CNM’s Rio Rancho Campus, seasoned professionals are training the next generation of lineworkers. Kevin Dunlap, CNM Ingenuity Lineworker Consultant, spent 33 years at Central New Mexico Electrical Cooperative. He says that as existing lineworkers begin to retire, there will be an increase in demand to fill that void.
“You have guys like me who are retiring after decades of being linemen,” says Kevin. “We need expertly trained people to come in and help fill those positions.”
From a distance, the training facility doesn’t look like much more than some wooden poles standing alone on the mesa. But up close, students are climbing the 35-foot utility poles like professional trapeze artists using climbing spikes, support belts and fall protection.
“It was a little stressful going up there for the first time. I was a little shaky and it was a little nerve-racking,” says student Nick Ortiz. “But after doing it so many times in just a couple of weeks, and with Kevin’s guidance, I’ve definitely gotten a lot more comfortable.”
During the comprehensive 15-week certificate program, the students are learning everything about utility line maintenance and safety, including electrical theory, installing cross-arms and practicing pole-top rescues on life-size dummies. Students will also receive training necessary to obtain a Class A Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), a required prerequisite to receiving program certification.
“Including the CDL training means students are better prepared to go into a lineworker apprenticeship program but it also gives students career options,” says Dawnn. “If they decide not to pursue linework for some reason, they still have options for great careers using their commercial driver’s license.”
Additionally, the students are required to complete 240 internship hours, full of hands-on activities to hone their technical skills.
“I want my students to go into an apprenticeship fully ready for anything that gets thrown at them,” says Kevin. “When they are done here, they should have an arsenal of knowledge, and the upper hand when it comes to performing in the workforce.”
Student Tyler Dickens says that being in this immersive program has fed his growing knowledge of the field and he has high-hopes for employment opportunities in the future.
“Being a lineman is a unique job that not very many people are suited for,” he says. “I’m grateful that this program came about because I like being able to work outside and the training is great. Kevin will answer any question I have for him.”
NMRECA also holds a week-long apprenticeship training at the facility twice a year for apprentices from across the state. After graduating from Jemez Valley High School, Adrian Chavez knew a four-year university wasn’t for him. So instead of a classroom, Chavez, who’s now 23, found work with the Jemez Mountains Electric Cooperative and he’s currently in the fourth year of his paid apprenticeship as a lineworker.
“I firmly believe the trades need a boost in this country and this program is a boost for lineworkers like myself,” Chavez said last year during his apprenticeship training at the Rio Rancho Campus. “No one told me I could have a fulfilling career and make good money without a degree when I graduated high school, so I hope we can spread the word and continue this kind of training.”
Story originally published on cnm.edu.