© 2021 WKSU
Public Radio News for Northeast Ohio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

FirstEnergy Tries to Get Ahead of the Wave of Retiring Line Workers

photo of FirstEnergy linemen

FirstEnergy is offering to pay tuition and fees for some students to attend Stark State College, if they’re interested in working with electricity – outdoors.

The company’s Power Systems Institute is a two-year program at several community colleges, including Stark State. The training could lead to work with the utility company as line workers or at a substation, which can often be in tight spaces, or it can involve being high up on steel structures.

FirstEnergy spokesman Mark Durbin says one of the reasons the program started was to find new talent for the company.

“We saw that when you look at the overall average age of our utility line force, it was aging. And how do you get ahead of that curve? Well, you try to staff up in advance of all those retirements.”

Durbin adds that the trainees can also benefit from working alongside the more experienced line workers. And many of them like the physical challenge of climbing poles and working outdoors every day.

The Akron-based company held an information session at the college on Saturday. Tim Dodge is a high school senior from East Palestine who stopped by because he’s interested in the program.

“My dad is an electrical engineer, and I always was kind of fascinated by that work. I’m interested in the substation work because there’s two sides to it: you have the line work -- which is more of outside and you’re moving around more – just learning about electricity and how it works.”

The next information session is Wednesday night in Springfield.

Editor's note: This story has been amended to make it clear that the workers are men and women.