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College leadership and businesses affirm program is among the best in the west

The nation’s electric grid remains one the remarkable engineering success stories in U.S. history. With the emergence of new technologies, electric distribution industry officials believe the workforce needed to manage and sustain distribution of electric power will increase exponentially. The new Western Colorado Community College lineworker training facility will play an ongoing and lasting role in meeting the growing national workforce demand. 

The new facility for the program was unveiled at a grand opening event on Thursday, August 14.

“Today’s milestone is an important one for Colorado rural electric cooperatives, utilities and municipalities that need a skilled workforce that can keep our lights on and our quality of life high,” said Grand Valley Power Chief Executive Officer Tom Walch. 

Walch was among many event participants that included elected officials, utility representatives, and university leaders and trustees as well as lineworker program students and instructors. The grand opening began with remarks from CMU President Tim Foster and ended with Electric Lineworker program alumnus Colton Spencer, ’17, climbing an indoor demonstration electric pole — a defining feature of the new facility. 

“The fact that so many companies and officials attended the opening is a testament to the market for lineworkers, and women and men who specialize in the field of electric distribution,” said CMU President Tim Foster. “A stable electric grid is at the heart of why this program exists and today the community was able to see why this program is becoming one of the best in the nation.” 

WCCC’s new state-of-the-art facility, located on the corner of 29 Road and D ½ Road, provides more usable square footage for lineworker students. There is more storage space for vehicles and equipment, and the facility includes updated audio visual (AV) and instructional technology capabilities, as well as larger classrooms. 

The new upgrades will allow students to learn in a more efficient and effective setting. They will also be challenged to apply the knowledge they learn in the classroom at the outdoor space on site. In the outdoor space, students will learn how to operate bucket and digger-derrick vehicles and climb industry-height poles. 

WCCC officials noted around 60% of lineworkers will retire in the coming years. This demographic transition poses challenges for the industry, but offers opportunity for the college program. Thomas Potter, lineworker program technical instructor, believes the reason WCCC is attracting students from as far away as New York is not only a result of the looming shortage of workers, but also because of the industry support that allows the program to grow.

“We have technical, financial and in-kind support from most of the area’s rural electric cooperatives and utilities as well as contractors, equipment providers and partners,” said Potter. “This facility is like other WCCC and CMU growth areas where our team responds quickly and nimbly to the needs of the community.” 

In addition to industry support, the state-of-the-art facility included financial support from the Mesa County Federal Lease District (FML) whose board of directors also attended. The FML grant included nearly $300,000, which was combined with financial support from the university and community college. 

Additional supporting attendees included a number of utility and cooperative representatives including the Delta Montrose Electric Cooperative (DMEA) whose staff attended the opening and were pleased to see the additional training space. 

The event was hosted by the CMU Foundation. Program supporters interested in learning about how to support the new facility and the WCCC Electric Lineworker program should contact the CMU Foundation.

About the WCCC Electric Lineworker Program:

The Electric Lineworker program covers all areas of training needed for those who desire to become an apprentice electric lineman. Students learn the basic skills in the study of electricity, the fundamentals of electric line work and transformer connections, and underground repair and installation. The Electric Lineworker program operates within an indoor and outdoor, hands-on electric training facility with classrooms on site.

 

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Written by David Ludlam