From left: Tyler Eckenrode, Trever Taylor, Blake Bailey and Joshua Taylor (no relation to Trever)

OUC got nearly a 60 percent return on its initial investment of time, resources and expertise in Valencia College’s new Electric Powerline Technician program, with four of the seven graduates joining The Reliable One as Line Tech IIIs.

Taught by retired OUC line professionals at our Pershing Technical Training facility, Valencia’s inaugural program prepared a group of young men for the rigors of line work in the real world. The 15-week session of four, 10-hour days ended with a graduation ceremony in Pershing’s lobby on October 8.

“We couldn’t have asked for a better group of trainees,” Mark Hughes, Valencia’s Construction Program Manager, said at the graduation event.

OUC’s new line tech IIIs are Blake Bailey, Trever Taylor, Joshua Taylor (no relation) and Tyler Eckenrode.

At 22, Bailey is the oldest of the four. Looking for a better paying line of work, he quit his job of four years as a local construction worker so he could attend Valencia’s line tech school. Eckenrode, 21, did the same thing, putting down his tools as a diesel mechanic in east Texas and moving to Kissimmee just in time to start class on June 24.

Joshua, 19, and Trever, 18, entered the training program a month after their high school graduations. For Joshua, the decision to pursue a career as a lineworker meant turning down the opportunity to play college football. He had two scholarship offers from small private colleges.

“It was a very difficult decision,” said Joshua, who earned the nickname the “pancake king” for flattening defensive players while playing center for Foundation Academy in Winter Garden. “I knew since I was a junior in high school that this [line tech] is what I wanted to do. OUC’s linemen are the best of the best, and I want to be the best of the best.”

Trever said he knew he didn’t want to go to college, despite his father’s encouragement to continue his education. “College wasn’t for me,” said Trever. “This is really what I want to do and the Valencia class taught me that it’s what I want to do the rest of my life.”

After a few weeks of training and evaluations, the four new line tech IIIs split up and join line crews.  Line tech IIIs are considered experienced apprentices and are allowed to work on energized systems up to 750 volts under direct supervision of a line tech II or higher. After two years, they’re eligible for promotion to line tech II status, a four-year hitch that leads to line tech I. Then they can climb the final rung on a lineworker’s career ladder, putting in 18 months to complete the necessary certifications to become journeymen.

“Our partnership in Valencia’s Electric Powerline Technician program helped produce an exceptional group of line tech IIIs,” said James Alexander, who as OUC’s Senior Electric Technical Trainer advised Valencia on its new Electric Powerline Technician course curriculum. Retired OUC line techs Daryl Hamilton, George Hayes and Raymond O’Neill taught the program.

Latisha Thompson, Chief Employee Experience Officer, described the OUC-Valencia partnership as a vital resource for workforce development. “This is a collaborative effort to address pressing needs in our industry—the recruitment and retention of highly trained lineworkers,” she said. “It’s really incumbent on us as a leader among Florida utilities to help ensure the highest level of professionalism of the people who work in our industry.”

Valencia’s next powerline tech class at OUC’s training facility runs from January 21 to May 11, 2020.