Linemen Keep the Power On

National Lineman Appreciation Day on Thursday recognizes the skilled workers that do the job.
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Stories : People
Stories : People

Linemen Keep the Power On

National Lineman Appreciation Day on Thursday recognizes the skilled workers that do the job.
Photo Credit: ELISA FERRARI

Southern California Edison’s white utility trucks are so common in communities that the work of the linemen inside often is taken for granted — at least until the lights go out.

“You work a lot of hours, but that’s good,” said Richard Medina, an apprentice linemen. “People need their power.”

The path to becoming a lineman is physically and mentally demanding, requiring apprentice training both in class and in the field to earn a coveted journeyman lineman certificate. SCE has 650 journeyman lineman and 300 apprentices.

Journeyman lineman Will Robinson shows the 40-pound tool belt a lineman wears.
Journeyman lineman Wil Robinson shows the 40-pound tool belt a lineman wears.

Whether they were lineman at another utility, have gone through a lineman trade school course or are totally new to the work, all would-be SCE lineman must go through the company’s training course.

The classes and physical tests take place at SCE’s training center in Chino, where a forest of towering wooden power poles greets a visitor. Apprentices must complete a rigorous, three-year course that teaches everything from climbing a pole to the theory of electricity. During it all, safety is the No. 1 priority.

Apprentices train on poles at SCE's lineman training center in Chino.
Apprentices train on poles at SCE's lineman training center in Chino.

“My job is for old linemen like me to teach young linemen to become old lineman,” said Richard Flores Rocha, an SCE training specialist who became a journeyman lineman in 1974.

Some apprentices are surprised at the amount of book learning required in lineman’s training in addition to the strenuous physical work.

“The biggest challenge is being able to work all day in the hot sun climbing poles, then be able to go home and study for the rest of the night, then come in the next day to be tested on what you’ve been studying,” said Frederick Wing, a lineman apprentice. “It’s not just physical — it’s a mixture of both.”

An apprentice works at SCE's lineman training center in Chino.
An apprentice works at SCE's lineman training center in Chino.

After completing each step, the apprentices go out in the field for five months before beginning the next stage of training.

While much of the training is traditional, the apprentices are also learning new skills for the technology transforming utilities in the 21st century. Electronic tablets and cellphones allow linemen to better diagnose and report problems in the field. Fiberglass poles are replacing the common wood poles in some high fire risk areas.

“It’s a really proud trade and not just anyone can do it,” said Ron Washington, journeyman lineman. “It’s a hard line to toe, but I wouldn’t do anything else.”

To learn more about journeyman lineman positions at SCE and other opportunities: edisoncareers.com.

Thursday is National Lineman Appreciation Day. To thank a lineman, visit SCE on InstagramFacebook and Twitter and include the hashtag #thankalineman.