‘It’s a big help’: York, Clover utility worker program prepares students for careers

Clover High School senior Coleman Stokes spent Thursday practicing climbing a utility line pole and following safety procedures.

It’s a step toward joining a family tradition for Stokes, who hopes to follow in his grandfather’s and uncle’s footsteps in becoming a utility line worker.

Stokes, 17, is enrolled in a new utility line worker certification program offered at York and Clover school districts.

“It’s preparing us for the job and career we want to go into,” he said. “It’s a big help.”

York and Clover students joined York Technical College students in a climbing course Thursday at York Tech’s Chester location.

York and Clover school leaders partnered with Comporium, Duke Energy and York Technical College to offer the program, The Herald previously reported.

The program is the first of its kind in South Carolina, according to Duke Energy.

Students who complete the program earn college credit, said Don Hamrick, program instructor.

“When they will come out of high school, they will have the skills that an apprentice lineman will have,” he said. “Any utility company would love to hire these guys with the experience they got just right out of high school.”

The course is open to high school seniors and held at Floyd D. Johnson Technology Center in York. Clover students enrolled in the two-semester program are bused to York, The Herald previously reported.

“The district recognized there is a need for this in the community,” said Lee Green, director of the Floyd D. Johnson Center. “We realized as a school and as a community in York and the Clover area, we need to do our part in preparing kids and make them career ready.”

Hamrick said there is a need for skilled utility workers.

“There are lineman jobs across America. They’re just everywhere,” he said. “These guys here, when they get through with this high school program, they will be able to go to work for anybody.”

That’s the program’s appeal for York senior Lander Tritt. The 17-year-old said his father and uncle also worked as utility linemen.

“I like this field because it doesn’t require a four-year degree,” he said. ”You can go into this field with no debt from a degree and make a lot of money doing it.”

In 2016, utility line worker graduates made a median salary of $40,656 per year, according to York Technical College. reports linemen make, on average, $29.60 per hour in South Carolina. This is 42% higher than the national average, according to the jobs site.

Clover senior Matthew Hurley, 17, hopes the program will be the first step toward a career with Pike Electric or Duke Energy. His brother worked for Pike after serving in the Navy.

Hurley is already learning the tools of the trade and getting a taste of what a day as a utility line worker entails.

“It blows me away we’re being able to do this,” he said.

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Amanda Harris covers issues related to children and families in York, Chester and Lancaster County for The Herald. Amanda works with local schools, parents and community members to address important topics such as school security, mental health and the opioid epidemic. She graduated from Winthrop University.
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