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Duke grant expands tech school line worker programs

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The S.C. Technical College System Foundation is boosting training opportunities for utility line workers using the final allotment of a $1 million Duke Energy grant.

According to a news release, the state’s utility industry recently cited a demand for 500 line workers every year for the next five years as the field evolves and thousands of workers move into retirement.

“The utility industry is changing at a rapid pace, and we must increase the talent pipeline for line workers here in South Carolina today to keep up,” Mike Callahan, S.C. president for Duke Energy, said in the release. “Investing in programs that recruit and train this valuable workforce will reap benefits for the industry both immediately and in the years to come.”

S.C. Technical College’s Lineworker Grant Program awarded grants in 2018 to Horry-Georgetown Technical College, Tri-County Technical College and York Technical College to expand or create line worker programs, with additional funding in 2020.

“These funds have served to significantly expand our offerings and provide skilled workers to the utility industry,” Tim Hardee, S.C. Technical College System president, said in the release. “Partnerships like the one we have with Duke Energy provide the foundation of our mission. Our goal is to ensure business and industry have the talent pipeline they need to be successful today and in the future.”

Through the additional funding, Horry-Georgetown Technical College has doubled its enrollment, enhanced its curriculum and added equipment ranging from pole top rescue gear to live line tooling.

“This grant has allowed us to increase opportunities for students and align curriculum with workforce needs to address the shortage of essential, trained lineworkers,” Jennifer Wilbanks, executive vice president for academics at Horry-Georgetown Technical College, said in the release. "We are fortunate to have knowledgeable faculty with a strong industry background who are focused on the success of our students.”

Tri-County Technical College launched its first power lineworker program last fall. All graduates of its first class have accepted a position in the industry, while 60% of February 2020’s class had job offers before finishing the program, according to the release.

Additional funding will help bolster capacity and program offerings such as an existing Power Lineworker Rodeo that helps connect students with local employers in the field.

York Technical College transitioned its Power Lineworker Program from a non-credit to a credit certificate, with 32 students earning an initial certificate.

“The recent lineworker grant funds helped support the expansion of our existing program by allowing us to increase training capacity and purchase equipment vital to student success," Sonia Young, director of corporate and continuing education at York Technical College, said in the release. "By expanding our program, the college now has the opportunity to provide training to a wider range of audiences, including high school students through dual enrollment partnerships."

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