(HARLINGEN, Texas) – Electrical lineworkers must respond to power outages in all weather and conditions — especially when the lights go out because of the elements.
As if to illustrate this point, rain poured down from above during a Tuesday visit by three staff members from the Brownsville Public Utilities Board to Texas State Technical College’s Electrical Lineworker Technology practice pole yard in Harlingen. Undaunted by the deluge, all the lineworker students remained aloft, completing tasks on their electrical poles.
The trio from the Brownsville PUB traveled to campus to check out the program and meet the students.
“I’ve never had an opportunity like this where we have people that are actually coming on having a good foundation for what it is that we do in this area,” said Joe Paredes, Talent Acquisition and Staffing manager at Brownsville PUB. “They have schools and training for everything else, but there was never anything like this before. This is entirely new for us.”
TSTC opened its Electrical Lineworker Technology program in Harlingen in August 2020. Three other TSTC campuses — Fort Bend County, Marshall and Waco — also offer the program. At every location, students learn about the safe use and operation of climbing gear, equipment and tools with hands-on instruction and experience.
“They’re very good climbers,” said Candelario Deanda, a TSTC lineworker instructor, observing the students in the pole yard alongside the staff from Brownsville PUB. “They’ve come a long way already.”
Deanda retired from the Brownsville PUB after a 22-year career to teach the first class of TSTC lineworker students in Harlingen.
“I love the job. It’s my time to teach these guys,” he said. “I haven’t even called in sick or taken a vacation day.”
Students can pursue a 20-month Associate of Applied Science degree in Electrical Lineworker Technology, or they can focus on a 12-month Electrical Lineworker certificate of completion. Several of the students already have had job interviews with companies like Magic Valley Electric Cooperative and AEP, Deanda said.
During Tuesday’s visit, students gathered around and peppered Paredes and Manuel Arredondo, Electric Operations manager at the Brownsville PUB, with questions about available positions.
Deanda touted just how valuable his highly trained students would be to any company.
“They’re not a normal guy off the street,” he said, comparing their experience with his when he first entered the workforce. “When I went in, the only thing I did was hold a flashlight. These guys are going to know how to climb. They know their basic equipment, they know how to use a bucket, they know how to set poles.”
Texas leads the nation in the number of electrical power-line installers and repairers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Workers in the state earn, on average, $55,880 per year, and jobs in the industry are expected to increase 16% by 2028, according to onetonline.org.
Electrical Lineworker Technology is part of TSTC’s Money-Back Guarantee program, which enables students who do not find a job in their profession within six months of graduation to have their tuition refunded.
Registration for the fall semester is underway. Scholarships are available. For more information, visit tstc.edu.