The Daily Express

Owens Community College and FirstEnergy Form Training Partnership

Daniel Simpson of Luckey takes his first steps toward a career as an electric line worker during an 80-hour (two-week) Basic Wood Pole Climbing course conducted at FirstEnergy's Lakewood Service Center in Northwood.

Students interested in a career as an electrical line worker now can pursue such an opportunity through a partnership program offered between Owens Community College and FirstEnergy Corp.

Continuing to meet head-on the educational and training needs of area residents, Owens and FirstEnergy are offering a 70 credit hour Electric Utility Technology program which allows students to earn an Associate of Technical Studies Degree and gain the necessary experience for employment in the electrical field.

"Owens Community College is committed to offering the latest in technical programs for individuals who have career aspirations in a variety of electrical fields," said Owens Community College President, Christa Adams, Ph.D. "As partners, FirstEnergy and Owens Community College are working together to enhance the training and educational opportunities for these students - and fulfill the need for qualified employees."

The partnership, which was established in 2001, will help FirstEnergy to replace retiring line workers, as projections indicate that FirstEnergy will face the challenge of replacing more than 40 percent of its existing line worker workforce due to retirement during this decade.

"In the past, line workers learned their craft and achieved specialized skills through classroom work and on-the-job training," explained FirstEnergy's Rick Luse, Manager of the Power Systems Institute. "However, because of electric deregulation and the development of rapid advancements in technology, the training timeframe for utility line workers needs to be much more condensed than in the past. This is why our partnership with Owens plays such an important role in our workforce development program."

Students spend two days each week in class at Owens Community College taking college courses such as National Electric Code, Contemporary Business, Technical Math, Composition, Physics and Economics. The other 2 1/2 days each week are spent gaining hands-on training at FirstEnergy's Lakewood Service Center, located in Northwood off I-280.

Students in the Electric Utility Technology program also receive first-aid and CPR certifications and obtain a Class A Commercial Driver's License (CDL). The program enrolls a maximum of 15 students each Fall.

"Due to the limited number of individuals allowed to participate in the program each year, students must complete a three-step selection process," said Dave Siravo, Owens Apprenticeship Training Manager for the College's Workforce and Community Services Division. "Students participate in activities that will test their strength, endurance and abilities of working in an elevated position, as well as take placement tests in English, reading and math."

During the final stage of the selection process, students must complete an 80-hour (two-week) Basic Wood Pole Climbing course conducted at a FirstEnergy site in preparation for the Fall Semester.

Each student in the Owens Community College and FirstEnergy Corp. Electric Utility Technology partnership program must complete a three-step selection process in order to participate in the 21-month program.

"Students will learn to climb poles in full fall protection equipment and familiarize themselves with basic overhead line materials, conductors, sleeves and hand-line use," Siravo said.

Following the three-step selection process and completion of the 21-month program, each participant may be eligible for employment at FirstEnergy.

According to Siravo, there are currently 10 students in their third semester of the program's initial class. "As part of their current Skilled Trades Summer Field Experience, each student is assigned to a work crew where they are utilizing skills learned during their first two semesters in the program," he said. "The field experience is a great opportunity because the students gain the hands-on experience that cannot be acquired through a textbook."

During the Summer Semester, students are conducting their field experiences with Toledo Edison at different locations in Northwest Ohio, which include Holland, Northwood, Wauseon, Toledo and Sandusky. Students are paid between $15 and $17 per hour, depending on job assignment and location.

FirstEnergy is a registered public utility holding company based in Akron. Its electric utility operating companies - Ohio Edison, The Illuminating Company, Toledo Edison, Pennsylvania Power, Metropolitan Edison, Pennsylvania Electric - comprise the nation's 4th largest electric system serving 4.3 million customers in Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

For more information on enrolling in the Electric Utility Technology program, call 1-800-GO-OWENS, Ext. 7449 or (567) 661-7449.

Owens Community College is the fastest-growing community college of its size in the nation. On the Toledo-area and Findlay campuses, Owens serves more than 36,000 credit and non-credit students making it the number one choice for entry-level college students in Northwest Ohio. Owens is committed to providing small classes, personal attention and unmatched affordability. Owens Community College offers over 140 program areas in Agriculture, Business, Health, Public Service, Skilled Trades, Industrial and Engineering Technologies. Owens students also can earn the first two years of a bachelor's degree with a smooth transfer to any area four-year college or university.

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