(MARSHALL, Texas) – Leaders from Texas State Technical College and Southwestern Electric Power Co. (SWEPCO) recently gathered in Marshall to celebrate a financial pledge made through The TSTC Foundation to TSTC’s Electrical Lineworker Technology program.
The American Electric Power Foundation has pledged $100,000 to the program to help ease the financial burdens of students in need, enabling them to complete the program’s associate degree and/or certificate of completion. The AEP Foundation is funded by American Electric Power and its utility operating units, including SWEPCO. The first $50,000 of the contribution has been received, with an additional $50,000 gift planned for 2022. The gift adds to an existing endowment that the foundation created a few years ago.
“We are exceptionally grateful for AEP’s outstanding support of our Electrical Lineworker Technology program and the great benefit this gift brings to the students,” said Barton Day, provost of TSTC in Marshall.
Riley Hodges, lead instructor in TSTC’s Electrical Lineworker Technology program in Marshall, said the endowment can help students who might leave TSTC due to program costs.
Wade Cumbie, of Carthage, is pursuing an associate degree in the Electrical Lineworker Technology program and is scheduled to graduate this semester. He said he is happy that the AEP Foundation’s gift will help future program students at the Marshall campus long after he is working in the industry.
“It’s a big deal for people who cannot afford the program,” Cumbie said. “The work we do is very fun. It is about the friendships you have with the guys. The instructors are very good.”
Bryan K. Blanton, Distribution System manager for SWEPCO’s Longview district, said about 50 Electrical Lineworker Technology graduates from Marshall have been hired by SWEPCO in the last four years. Blanton said graduates start off in a four-month internship, then go into a three- to four-year apprenticeship program to progress into becoming an electrical journeyman.
“We have had huge success with being able to hire students that are from the area where we are trying to place positions,” Blanton said.
Blanton also is chair of the Electrical Lineworker Technology program’s advisory board in Marshall. The advisory board is made up of industry personnel who give input on what students need to learn to match what is being done in industry.
“The program’s curriculum is in line with AEP’s curriculum, and this is a huge benefit because the students come out of the program with the knowledge that we need them to have,” Blanton said.
Mark A. Robinson, SWEPCO’s external affairs manager in Longview, said the electrical lineworker industry continues to see people move into less physical jobs or retire as they get older. Newer workers will be needed.
“What we are seeing in our community is almost an expectation that some go to college, and for some, a four-year degree may not be right,” Robinson said. “They (students) are being encouraged to go toward a certificate or two-year degree. They can stay in the community, get a high-quality education, go to college and go into the workforce.”
To motivate people to pursue the electrical lineworker field, it will take entities partnering together to promote technical education.
“TSTC and AEP are essential partners in economic development,” said Rush Harris, chief executive director of the Marshall Economic Development Corp. “Our EDC is proud to have them both in the community. This is a very generous contribution by AEP that provides additional opportunities to our area’s youth and future workforce.”
TSTC’s Electrical Lineworker Technology program is a Money-Back Guarantee program. Students who sign up for the program with a Career Services representative in their first semester of study can take part in focused workshops as they work their way to an associate degree. If students do not get a job in their degree field within six months of graduating, TSTC will refund their tuition.
The Ohio-based AEP Foundation works in AEP’s 11-state service region to support education in the areas of engineering, mathematics, science and technology. The foundation also works to support cultural arts, the environment, health care and quality-of-life efforts.
For more information on Texas State Technical College, go to tstc.edu.