CSM to begin lineman program in region with SMECO’s cooperation
NAACP applauds efforts to provide applicants with trade-related skills
A new program at the College of Southern Maryland is helping students who may be interested in apprenticing to become a lineman or go into other trades.
This semester, the Center for Trades and Energy Technology at CSM’s Hughesville campus, in collaboration with Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative (SMECO), is offering a 12-week Pre-Apprenticeship Certificate, Practical Electrical Utility Worker Training program.
“For a three-month training program and some training, they’ll have an opportunity to get picked up for an apprenticeship program or go to work for the electric company,” said Daniel Mosser, CSM’s vice president of continuing education and workforce development.
The program provides
CPR and first aid training, construction safety and mathematics, rigging and other basic training needed to enter an apprenticeship program, Mosser said.
“It gives people interested in pursuing it, all the basic skills needed to enter an apprenticeship,” Mosser said.
Graduates of the program receive a CSM Certificate of Completion– Pre Apprenticeship and preferential hiring with SMECO.
“We’re thinking this program will provide a rich pool of candidates with basic skills training,” Mosser said. “They’ll get a better applicant, and we’ll be able to provide more opportunities to our completers.”
Program completers will also qualify for flagger certification, Mosser said.
Current classes will be capped at around 18-20 students, but Mosser said that if there is interest, additional sections can be added.
Mosser said SMECO lineman positions pay approximately $70,000 to $80,000 per year with benefits.
Janice Wilson, president of the Charles County chapter of the NAACP, said she is excited about the new program.
“I am so excited about this program,” Wilson said. “I want young people to know about this. I think this is an innovative and wonderful opportunity for young people to see if this is something they want to do.”
Wilson said the program was an innovative way to provide more career options to young people.
“I think it is genius that they’ve come up with this approach,” Wilson said.
Wilson said she and the leaders of the Calvert and St. Mary’s counties’ NAACP chapters had contacted SMECO President Austin Slater Jr. in 2016 to discuss ways to improve minority employment opportunities.
“This began with conversations we had with SMECO,” Wilson said. “As a result of those conversations, Mr. Slater was very responsive, and I applaud him for his efforts.”
Slater said in a letter to the NAACP that the new program is part of SMECO’s efforts to promote workforce diversity. Slater said no minorities were selected for the apprentice lineman program that launched in fall 2014.
“The unfortunate reality being no minority applicants possessed the requisite skills and/or experience necessary to meet our minimum qualifications,” Slater wrote. “I decided we needed to address this program by developing a program of training for young Apprentice hopefuls.”
Jason Atherton, technical training manager at SMECO, said in a news release that SMECO gets hundreds of applicants, but few have the necessary skills required to even start training.
“Some have no idea how to properly climb a ladder or use a shovel,” Atherton said.
Atherton said that after students complete 12 weeks of learning core construction skills and safety practices at CSM, “... then they will go across the road to SMECO’s lineman training yard for basics in electrical utility work, including pole climbing, which is the great leveler.”
Atherton will serve as the SMECO instructor for the 40-hour field practicum portion of the course.
In addition, SMECO is offering two full scholarships for the program.