SVCC working to train future linemen

Published 11:12 am Tuesday, January 31, 2017

By Julia McCann
Special to The Farmville Herald

As an experienced workforce retires, the Power Line Worker Training School at Southside Virginia Community College (SVCC) is working to address the need for trained labor.

According to Keith Harkins, vice president for workforce and continuing education at SVCC, the program stemmed out of a town hall meeting at SVCC’s Keysville campus during which the CEOs of Southside Electric Cooperative and Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative stressed the need for qualified line worker candidates.

The program, which began in May, has already graduated 48 students in three cohorts. Of the first two cohorts, 29 of 30 graduates have full-time jobs in the industry. The school does not have employment data on the most recently graduated class of 18 students.

“Students completing the SVCC program generally enter into their company’s apprenticeship program,” said Harkins.

“I entered the lineman program because I was in search of a demanding but … rewarding career,” said Walker Sanderson, a recent graduate of the lineman program who lives in Cumberland County. “I grew up on a farm and have always been faced with hard work. I have always loved working outdoors.”

Josh Duggan

Josh Duggan


Walker Sanderson

“It beats sitting-behind-a-desk repetitiveness,” said Josh Duggan, another recent program graduate, who lives in Prince Edward County. “I like not knowing what I will be doing; there is always something different.”

The program offers hands-on training in climbing techniques, electrical theory, aerial framing, rigging, operating utility service equipment, commercial driver’s license (CDL) and safety, according to SVCC. The school’s website stresses safety as a key component to the program.

“In this line of work, you only get to make one mistake, and it can be your last,” said Sanderson. “You always have to be aware of what you are doing as well as others.”

When asked about the program tuition, currently listed on the program’s website as “$9,950, due in full 30 days prior to the start of each class,” Sanderson said “the cost is definitely fair and they are very helpful with making sure you register for all the grants and scholarships possible.”

The school is in the process of making improvements to the program.

“We recognized early on the long-term success of this program would rely on our ability to provide quality accommodations at a reasonable cost for our students,” said Harkins.

The Power Line Worker Training School is located at the SVCC Occupational Technical Center at Blackstone’s Pickett Park, site of the former U.S. Army base, Fort Pickett. As a solution to the shortage of affordable student housing, SVCC teamed up with Nottoway County, which provided project management and financial assistance to remodel a county-owned building in Pickett Park.

“This unique partnership provides our students in the Power Line Worker program, Diesel Repair program, CDL program and the Automotive Repair program, all located at the SVCC Occupational and Technical Center, access to housing for $14 per night,” said Harkins.

“This class was a great way to get a look into what being a lineman is all about and if that is a career you would want to pursue,” said Sanderson.

The next power line worker program, which runs from Feb. 27-May 5, is full. The next sessions are scheduled for June 19-Aug. 30 and Sept. 12-Nov. 21.

To learn more about the SVCC Power Line Worker Training School, visit or contact Susan Early at (434) 292-3101 or email