The Slim the Lineman story was about making choices for young men, between making big money or steady money. Like most linemen, the need to be paid for your extra effort and risk goes hand in hand.
In the early years, new projects for infrastructure needed lots of manpower and created many good jobs. In those days, 50% of the workers were injured on the job. before the understanding and handling of live electrical lines was made safer. Work practices improved and safer work conditions came along with unions and linemen organizations during these growth years.
Better wages and working conditions have created a huge draw for young people and the opportunities are everywhere where there is financial growth. Customer demand drives all construction industries. Electricity (and Linework) is always the first thing required and the last thing removed. Electrical work is almost inflation proof. In good times, or bad, there are always jobs.
The line trade is huge and requires many skills that are both physically challenging and mentally interesting. The danger is always present and requires focus and analytical skills. An apprenticeship takes anywhere up to four years to complete, which until completed is usually at lower wages. The choices begin after the apprenticeship.
The first choice is normally offered by the sponsorship, and it is expected that a lineman would give back his or her time. This is respectful but it is not always practical, so knowing what the options are is important. Each lineman needs to think ahead just like in the trade.
Utility work is closer to home. The pay is steady, and overtime is available.
Contractor positions are more variable. They are usually as needed, on a project basis or subject to mobility. Overtime is available but the work usually involves travel and relocation.to where the jobs are.
Construction is a general term for linework on a large project, either transmission or distribution, which lasts for a defined or estimated timeframe. These sometimes include expected scheduled overtime and can be lucrative. A couple of years of sacrifice can pay off significantly (if the money is managed correctly). Big money in boom years is great but home life can really suffer. It can be difficult to balance.
Storm chasing is another option. It usually requires union travelling from area to area. Hiring is done through the halls; it can be sticky, but it works. The work is demanding and intermittent, more like a boom or bust style. The storm soldiers have challenges and definitely, are not home bodies.
Linemen have huge options for electrical utility advancements and industry leadership roles. Those positions typically require a good amount of experience, knowledge, and skills. Advanced education plus operational experience combined with computer, communication, systems training is required.
Choices are hard to make but the important thing is linemen and women do have choices. Once you get your full credentials, the world is open to you.
There are only good decisions and better ones. When you are young, strive to gain experience with physically tasking work. Help others learn and spread your knowledge. Build solid confidence, move forward, and do not limit yourself, stay open to new experiences but be honest about yourself and do not get in too far over your head.
Work to achieve goals and the choices will open. There are no experiences that do not add to your resume.
The choice is yours.
Bruce Masse – Trouble Technician