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#53835 07/08/05 05:40 PM
Joined: Mar 2004
Posts: 391
BigJohn Offline OP
I've gotta jump ship and get the heck out of maintenance work. I'm stuck between two options: Going into resi/commercial service work, which I know I like to do. Or trying a whole new field as a lineman's apprentice with Virginia Power. I know absolutely nothing about line work, and have no idea what I'd be getting into. Can any of the career lineman on here give me an idea of what their apprenticeship was like? I have no problem with the physical labor aspect of it, but I need a job that's also mentally challenging. How much of my utility apprenticeship would be just mule work? How much of actual line work is just grunt work? Is there a lot of trouble-shooting and problem solving involved? What're some stories ya'll have?

Thanks for any help, gents.


#53836 07/08/05 07:09 PM
Joined: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,429
LK Offline
"How much of my utility apprenticeship would be just mule work? How much of actual line work is just grunt work? Is there a lot of trouble-shooting and problem solving involved?"

John, if you have the chance to get the job,
don't worry about what type of tasks it takes to work your way up, just get in there and get started, if someone asked me how much mule work there was, i would discount him as someone that would not work out in the long term, the utility companies would start out new employees as waterboy, then they would get a chance to see how he melts with the crew, if that works, then they would make him goffer/utility man, as you put it mule work, if that worked out, and you were good at following instructions, then you would start line trainning, the crew, and the company would at that time be willing to invest in you.

[This message has been edited by LK (edited 07-08-2005).]

#53837 07/08/05 07:41 PM
Joined: Apr 2005
Posts: 65
Bigjohn, there are not many jobs out here that are really mentally challanging. Everything is reduced to the simplest level to make it more profitable. So why not drive over to Norfolk and join the Navy. Ask for sub school. I hear they have a nice training program. Be sure to tell them I sent you so I get my bounty. Don't be so quick to jump ship next time , I don't like giving refunds.

#53838 07/08/05 08:20 PM
Joined: Dec 2004
Posts: 1,064
John, unfortunatley your age is also a deciding factor, along with your marital status.

The guys I know from the POCO's are all middle age guys 30-40 yrs, most married with kids.

Biggest advantage they say are the benefits packages.

Worst are the shifts they are stuck on due to seniority of the older guys.

They are worth their money, in my eyes. Seeing some of them hanging horizontal off a tower changing insulators is impressive.

Good luck...


#53839 07/08/05 09:34 PM
Joined: Jan 2005
Posts: 5,459
Likes: 3
Cat Servant
Most folks remember Admiral Farragut for his "Damn the torpedos" remark- but NOT the US Navy. They remember him for:


I suppose that with almost all trades, the work is 90% routine- yet a little screw-up will cause problems. This is likely true with line work.

Sure the wire is bigger, and the volts higher- but that makes the details all the more important.
PoCo's are usually frightfully over-manned, with a lot of time spent on mundane tasks. Just where do you think they get the trained bodies when the next Hurricane re-arranges the grid?

All that aside, I'd give the apprenticeship serious thought. If nothing else, heavy industry, as well as smaller utilities, are always looking for some guys with the high-voltage experience.

I'd love to spen some time with a PoCo- I think that a better understanding of their system would help me in my EC job.

#53840 07/09/05 03:53 PM
Joined: Mar 2004
Posts: 391
BigJohn Offline OP
If someone asked me how much mule work there was, I would discount him as someone that would not work out in the long term
It'd be nice not to have that happen, which is why I'm looking around before I commit to this apprenticeship. The reason I asked that question is simply because I want to know what I'm working towards: I have no problem doing hard labor. As a commercial apprentice, that was a sizable chunk of my job. But would I be going through my linemans apprenticeship doing purely routine labor only to graduate into a lineman position still doing purely routine labor, only this time with ASTM class 3 gloves on?

Let me put it this way, those of you who are lineman: What do you like about your job? What makes it satisfying?


[This message has been edited by BigJohn (edited 07-09-2005).]

#53841 07/12/05 12:05 AM
Joined: Jul 2002
Posts: 8,443
Likes: 3
Sorry to come into your topic so late in the piece, but I was actually trying to think of what is good about my job.
{Don't take that as a negative thing, but, I'd never actually thought about it, very hard before}
OK, I'd already served an apprentice-ship with the PoCo as an Electrician, before I was asked if I would like to undertake a Line-Mechanics (Lineman) apprentice-ship.
Personally, you tend to get a wee bit (not much) more respect if you already have qualifications in the Electrical Trades.
In fact, I lost 1000 hours off of my Linemans Apprentice-ship and started on a better rate of pay too, as opposed to a guy coming in off of the street.
John, line-work as I see it, is more mechanical than electrical,(not to say that electrical integrity of a grid is not important) you can make the best connections in the world on your lines, but if the poles and insulators won't take the strain, that could be classed as mucking up. [Linked Image]
I've jotted down a few good points about my job:
  • You get to work outdoors, nothing worse than being cooped up on a nice day.
  • Being part of a good team of workers that know what they are doing when it matters.
  • Line-work keeps you fit, I no of no Line workers that have a Gym subscription.
  • At the end of the day, you can (or should be able to) see what you've done, in the form of a set of new lines and poles.
  • You get to learn how to use a whole new set of tools.
  • Oh and the money isn't that bad either.

However John, it's not all beer and skittles though, here are some of the bad things:
  • Hieghts- If you aren't keen on hieghts, line-work aint your cup of tea.
    The image of guys working way up in the air is a real one, especially only on a pole belt to prevent you from falling.
  • Believe me mate, Line-work is very hard yakka(work), besides the fact that we often have things like Insulated Bucket trucks and Hydraulic gear for lifting, you will be required to lift or pull heavy equipment.
  • You get to work outdoors- All year around and the only thing that will prevent this, is a serious thunderstorm, if it threatens your part of the network.
  • Call-outs at all hours of the night can strain relationships and it makes you tired the next day too.
  • You are expected to work as normal regardless of the weather, time of day, everyone in the team is expected to play thier part.
  • Everything is larger with Line work and requires more force to move, bend and tighten things.

John don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to scare you away from this, I'm just saying it as I see it.
One thing you have to be sure of, is that you want to do this, you can't enter a Trade like this with a half-hearted attitude, you have to want it!.
Just to quote the other John in this thread:
I suppose that with almost all trades, the work is 90% routine- yet a little screw-up will cause problems. This is likely true with line work.
Like a worker here that caused 19 loose Neutral connections in the same street here, because of bad crimps. [Linked Image]
Big John, if you have any other questions, please fire away!. [Linked Image]

[This message has been edited by Trumpy (edited 07-12-2005).]

#53842 07/12/05 02:18 AM
Joined: Jul 2002
Posts: 8,443
Likes: 3
Even so, John,
If you have the chance, in you area, a good look at a Lineman's Rodeo would give you a good idea of what is required, albeit at higher speed.
Or even having a look at working teams in your area.
Us Utility workers work in some really nasty weather and it is just like water off of a ducks back.
It annoys me a tad when EC's here complain about the "slackness of the Utilities".
That same crew could have jointed half of the grid in thier town, while the EC slept soundly.
I'm not looking to start a "thing" here, but unless you've worked out in the middle of high winds and driving rain, trying to re-instate supply to a whole town, about 10 minutes after you got out of bed.

#53843 07/19/05 07:05 PM
Joined: Mar 2004
Posts: 391
BigJohn Offline OP
Many thanks for the responses guys, especially yours Trumpy. I took the sissy route and went with what I already know and like: The resi/commercial route, but I appreciate the responses.


#53844 07/19/05 08:26 PM
Joined: May 2003
Posts: 2,876
e57 Offline
The only pole climbing/line work I have done was in the Marines. Med voltage distribution mostly, some com. Most of the training was bare bones, or "field expediant". For instance:

How to set 52' pole...
Man of lowest rank digs 7' hole and 3' adjoined trench.
WHOLE platoon (12-20) carries pole to trench.
Man of lowest rank tars pole at fat end.
Man of lowest rank attaches pull rope 3/4 up. Man of highest rank supervises.
WHOLE Platoon jams pole into hole, and tilts it up, half move to rope. Man of highest rank supervises.
The pole gets plumbed.
Man of lowest rank fills and tamps hole, the rest of platoon jokes about how it was raising the flag a Iwo Jima, man of highest rank supervises. Man of lowest rank wishes he joined the Army, Navy or Air Force where this work would be done with 'equipment'.

Oh, man of lowest rank is usually first to gaff the pole too.

Mark Heller
"Well - I oughta....." -Jackie Gleason
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