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Creative Recruiting in JoCo Public Power Communities

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The four public power communities in Johnston County—Benson, Clayton, Selma, and Smithfield—have teamed up with Johnston County Schools, Johnston County Industries, ElectriCities, and five North Carolina community colleges to create a lineworker career development program to help address industry-wide workforce woes.

Benson town manager, Matt Zapp, is one of the champions of the program. “I sit on the ElectriCities board, and as the overseer of the electric system in Benson, I have seen a definitive vacuum of available linework personnel,” Zapp says. Because competition from broadband companies and investor-owned utilities has been hard on public power utilities, he explains, “We had to be very creative in an effort to backfill our current vacancies and prepare for future retirements that are coming to our communities.”

10 Saturdays
The program is for rising seniors—those graduating June 2019—in nine Johnston County high schools. Over 10 Saturdays during the 2018-2019 school year, interested students will get a total of 80 hours of linework training. Safety and training experts from ElectriCities will lead the training, with backup from senior-level lineworkers from the four communities as needed. Zapp explains, “So they graduate on Friday, June 7, 2019, and they will have been exposed to 80 hours of electric linework practicality.” David Young, manager of safety and training at ElectriCities, adds, “Once students go through the Saturday classes, they’ll have a really good grip on what being a lineworker entails.”

12 Paid Internships
Participants who are 18 by June 1st of their senior year can competitively interview for 12 openings for paid internships, or pre-apprenticeships, located across the four communities. Pre-apprenticeship participants will work 360 hours from June to August, making $12.50/hour. Cost of the paid internships will be covered by Johnston County Industries, an agency supporting at-risk youth.

5 Community Colleges
Those who complete the pre-apprenticeships will get a full scholarship to one of the five N.C. community colleges that have lineworker programs. Zapp explains, “They’re going to get a full trade career training, zero debt, and a guaranteed job. Right now, 100 percent of those who graduated from the Nash Community College lineworker program—both the fall and spring sessions—were employed the week following graduation.”

5 Years of Career Support
Support doesn’t stop with the community college scholarships. After graduation, for those who choose to work in a public power community in North Carolina, the state will cover 100 percent of their educational track for their five-year or 8,000-hour working program to become a journeyman-level lineworker.

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