Gov. Ricketts Explores New Heights at WNCC Powerline School
By SHAUN FRIEDRICHSEN
Donning work gear last Wednesday, Governor Pete Ricketts saw first-hand the skill it takes to be a lineman, climbing one of the poles at the WNCC Powerline School in Alliance.
Ricketts visited the school as part of the Nebraska Diplomats program, where he toured the facility and met with students.
After a tour of the facility, Ricketts spoke with students about the opportunities that are available in Nebraska, and the need for skilled workers.
In an interview with the Alliance Times-Herald, Ricketts said the demand is high for workers in the state of Nebraska, noting that WNCC is working to bridge the gap by helping students learn valuable trades.
“We know that there is a huge demand for people going to the high-skill, high-demand and high-wage jobs, like we’re teaching here at WNCC where you’ve got this Powerline Construction and Maintenance Technology School,” said Ricketts. “These folks here will get the training, after one year, to go out and get a job that pays $60,000 a year. We’ve got people in the Capitol Building who are working for state legislators, and they’re making like $35,000 a year. Some of them have law degrees.
“It really demonstrates that, for a long time, we told people, ‘Gee, you have to get that four-year degree to be successful.’ It’s just not true. You can do programs like this and get into a great career field that will have great benefits, great pay. You just have to be able to get the training to be able to do it,” Ricketts said.
Citing a number of programs available in Nebraska, Ricketts noted the opportunities available to those seeking to learn trades.
“We’ve got our Developing Youth Talent Initiative, which is a grant program that we have at the state to encourage companies to work with school districts to expose our young people in seventh and eighth grades to these types of career opportunities. Then they pursue that in a career academy. Scottsbluff has one.”
Another program available, Ricketts explained, is the apprenticeship program, which has seen an increase in numbers since 2016.
“These are just some high-quality programs,” said Ricketts. “On top of all that, we’re continuing to promote all these different programs. We’ve got one for kids at risk in high school. It’s the same kind of thing where we take kids who are at risk in high school and put them in a special class where they can get mentorship about working in these types of jobs so they can have the opportunity to see what the working world is like. We actually just launched that program this year, and all of our high school seniors involved graduated, whereas, typically, you would see not everyone get through that.”
Edward Salazar, WNCC Powerline Construction and Maintenance Coordinator, said the program has been in operation since 2006.
“Our program is a year-long program,” said Salazar. “We start every year in June. We accept up to 25 students, and we have three semesters where we use the merchant program curriculum. The guys are able to obtain a certificate and a diploma.”
Salazar said students undergo rigorous training. He noted it takes hard work and determination to complete the program.
“I really believe that it’s attractive lucratively,” Salazar said. “Linemen have the potential to make quite a bit of money. But once you come out here, you see that it is physically and mentally demanding. It’s going to take somebody who is willing to go through the rigorous training and do the work.”
Salazar said he is grateful to have the Governor visit the school and see all that the program entails. He noted that opportunities in the trade exist for both men and women.