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OSU Institute of Technology Graduates are Helping Fill Shortage of High Voltage Linemen


Increased demand and paid internships are encouraging more students to pursue a career as a high voltage lineman. Students at OSU Institute of Technology, located south of Tulsa, Oklahoma, are learning the skills needed while earning an Associate Degree in Applied Science in High Voltage. Upon completion of the two-year program, the graduates will work for Public Service Company of Oklahoma (PSO), Oklahoma Gas & Electric (OG&E), Western Farmers, or one of the many other electrical utility companies or contractors throughout the five state area.

According to Tim Bowmar, Human Resources Manager of Public Service Company of Oklahoma, high voltage linemen are needed to maintain existing systems and to construct new systems due to housing and commercial development. “There’s a nationwide shortage of high voltage linemen, and PSO has a shortage because job vacancies weren’t filled in the last two decades due to the slow economy in the 1980’s. Also, our existing workforce is ready for retirement, and people with high voltage lineman skills are hard to find. We hire many graduates from OSU Institute of Technology and they do an excellent job for us. We need more people with the high level of skills taught in that program.”

According to a 2002 report from the U.S. Department of Labor, the job outlook for the trained high voltage lineman is expected to increase 10% to 20% through the year 2012. Jimmy Jones, instructor in OSU Institute of Technology’s high voltage program, says the demand is greater than the report seems to indicate. “This report addresses new jobs. However, the need for trained high voltage linemen will be even greater than that because a high percentage of current linemen will be eligible for retirement within the next five years.”

While attending OSU Institute of Technology, students gain real-life experience by participating in five internships with potential high voltage employers. The employers pay the students while they’re interning, which helps the students with the costs of attending school. OSU Institute of Technology’s current students are making from $8.00 to $18.00 per hour during their internship, depending on the employer.

James Whitaker, who graduated from Morris High School in 2004, is a student in OSU Institute of Technology’s high voltage program. “OSU Institute of Technology has provided me with a great opportunity by placing me in a job that I wouldn’t have gotten without their help and without my degree from the high voltage program,” says Whitaker, who is interning for OG&E in Muskogee.

Another student in the high voltage program, Steve Price, graduated from Dewar High School in 1997. He says he used the skills he learned from the program to work at the Home and Garden Expo, climbing poles and hooking up services. “I feel that the high voltage program has given me a great career opportunity and OSU Institute of Technology has helped me get my internship and placed me in a company that I’m proud to work for.” Price is interning for OG&E.

OSU Institute of Technology instructor Jimmy Jones adds, “Most of our high voltage graduates will have several job offers to choose from, and usually they are able to choose a job that’s located in the area where they want to live.”

According to Steve Olmstead, Chair of OSU Institute of Technology’s Construction Technology Division, “After students graduate from OSU Institute of Technology with an associate degree, they can possibly enter the workforce as a third-year apprentice, depending on the company they go to work for. After the apprenticeship is completed - which is usually four to five years - the next step is to become a journeyman high voltage lineman, with a salary range from $50,000 to $85,000 per year, or higher if overtime pay is factored in.”

For more information on the high voltage program at OSU Institute of Technology, contact Steve Olmstead at (918) 293-4744, or 800-722-4471 Ext. 4744, or e-mail him at solmste@okstate.edu.

Visit OSU Institute of Technology’s Web site at www.osuit.edu, click on the Construction Technologies Division, then click on the high voltage lineman program. Another web site to visit is www.geocities.com/gnhotrod2003/, which contains pictures of current OSU Institute of Technology high voltage program students participating in learning activities.

Image Cutline #1: James Whitaker from Morris is training to become a high voltage lineman in OSU Institute of Technology’s associate degree program.

Image Cutline #2: Steve Price from Dewar is training to become a high voltage lineman in OSU Institute of Technology’s associate degree program.