OUC is partnering with Valencia College on a new, four-month job-training program that aims to turn students into Line Technicians IIIs at a time when the electric utility industry is facing a growing need for line techs.

Valencia’s inaugural Electrical Powerline Technician course began June 24 and is being conducted at OUC’s Pershing Technical Training facility. The current class of eight students, ranging in age from 18 to 27, trains 40 hours a week, Monday through Thursday, under the guidance of four instructors. Three of the trainers — George Hayes, Daryl Hamilton and Raymond O’Neill — are retired OUC line techs with more than 90 combined years of experience.

“We see this program as a valuable resource for OUC’s line technician recruiting efforts,” said Latisha Thompson, Chief Employee Experience Officer. “Their skills are in high demand, and by partnering with Valencia we can ensure students are trained to meet OUC’s high standards, should we hire some of them.”

OUC’s James Alexander, Senior Electric Technical Trainer, provided technical expertise while helping Valencia’s Construction Program Manager, Mark Hughes, set up the 15-week program.

The course is structured as an apprenticeship, with students participating in classroom and field exercises. It will be run separately from OUC’s apprentice program. Valencia’s line tech course covers basic electrical theory, electrical distribution, circuitry safety protocols, pole setting, and climbing, knot tying and other entry level skills. Financial literacy, interview skills and resumé writing also are included in the program.

Chase Englert, 18, said he heard about the line tech program from a math teacher at Harmony High School in St. Cloud. He graduated in May and entered the program a month later.

“This is a great stepping stone to OUC,” Englert said. “But even if you don’t get hired here you can go anywhere with the training we’re getting.”

Tuition for the program is $7,000, plus $1,600 for tools. In addition to loans, some students may qualify for up to $5,000 in grants from Career Source Central Florida, said Hughes. Valencia’s next Electrical Powerline Technician course begins in January 2020.

To enroll in the program, a prospective student must be at least 18, have a high school diploma or equivalent, pass a physical agility test and general assessment exam, and be able to obtain a Florida commercial driver’s license learner’s permit.

“Partnering with Valencia and having the class here at OUC allows us to get to know the students on many different levels,” said Alexander. “I look forward to seeing how they progress through the program.”