Edinboro University, Penelec to offer Power Systems Institute for line worker jobs

Contributed Photo

By Leslie Schaeffer
Contributing Writer/Spectator

Edinboro University greeted Penelec, a First Energy Company, with open arms last Saturday at an information presentation that would begin the process for many candidates looking to become line workers.

The university started a partnership with Penelec last fall when the electrical company opened the Power Systems Institute in Erie. The program allows eligible students to gain an associate’s degree and training for a potential job opportunity with Penelec.

“Last fall, Penelec approached Edinboro Unviersity with the idea that they would locate their Power Systems Institute in Erie,” Dean of the College of Science and Health Professions at Edinboro University, Dr. Nathan Ritchey said. “Penelec has this institute that collaborates with universities to provide not only the training of electric utilities for linemen, but also college education.”

Students will have to complete a 21-month program including academic courses and training for the job of a line worker. The program will have students take the courses they need at Porreco College, Edinboro University’s community college located in Erie.  Penelec has partnered with 12 other universities for similar programs.

“The academic curriculum will be some of the general education skills courses,” Director and Outreach Coordinator for Porreco College, Janet Bowker said. “English, math, computer skills and programs like that.”

Once classes begin, students will have to complete 2.5 days of academic courses at Porreco College and 2.5 days of skills training at a training facility every week.

But, even before they begin the course, students must pass invitation-only technical skills evaluation, with a score of 70 percent or higher. The test determines if candidates have the hand-eye coordination, dexterity and other skills to do the job. The test involves climbing wooden poles, raising and installing cross arms, going in a bucket truck and tying knots.

The selection process is highly demanding and competitive, as there are only 24 slots available for the program. The program’s goal is to hire the 24 who are in the program, but the students are not guaranteed a position.

“It’s actually quite tough to get in,” Ritchey said. “They have to be strong because you have to climb poles sometimes up to 60 feet up in the air in the middle of winter.” However, in addition to handling the physical aspects, Penelec is looking for their future employees to have a college degree, as well.

“When First Energy came to us, they [said that they] wanted these individuals to have an associate’s degree,” Bowker said. “They wanted them to be able to have the writing skills, math skills and computer skills to perform the jobs that they are going to have.” 

The program also comes with a required summer field experience training course before classes begin in August. The field experience is a 40 hour a week training process that is evaluated directly by First Energy. 

Since the Power Systems Institute is near Porreco College, the university decided that all academic courses would be at the community college. “We are very excited to have Penelec as a partner,” Bowker said on behalf of Porreco. “We have never done anything like this before.”

After the 24 students are selected, the process of training and schooling begins for students. Penelec will pay for the tuition and give an allowance to students for their book purchases. However, students will have to pay back the tuition and other costs if they are offered, but don’t accept a job with Penelec. 

“We’re very excited to have the program and we can’t wait to get started,” Bowker said.

Leslie Schaeffer is a contributing writer for the Spectator. She can be reached by eupnews.spectator@gmail.com