Pedernales Electric Cooperative (PEC) has announced the opening of its new Safety and Technical Training Center in Marble Falls, created in partnership with Northwest Lineman College (NLC), an industry-leading educational institution. The facility will provide PEC employees with hands-on learning in one of the communities it serves.
PEC welcomed its first class on July 6. The training center brings real-world situations into the classroom, with a focus on training lineworker apprentices, and will soon expand to include journeyworkers. Examples of these lessons include pole climbing, transformer work, rubber glove training, field inspections, computer courses on PEC’s mapping systems, and more.
The facility, located at PEC’s former Marble Falls office, was refitted to train employees within the cooperative’s service territory. This saves on travel and lodging costs normally associated with sending employees out of town to NLC. Localized training also allows apprentices to go home to their families after class and increases the availability of lineworkers should they need to respond to an outage.
At the training center, PEC employees who are certified instructors teach everything from technical skills to safety protocols. Using training equipment like NLC’s TransBanker™ transformer training simulator, trainers are able to expose employees to real energized equipment in a controlled environment.
“One of the biggest challenges you face as a lineworker is when you get called to an outage, and you need to troubleshoot an issue,” said PEC Safety and Technical Training Manager James Vasquez. “With this equipment you can actually build those scenarios, put the fault on it, and help them figure out why they were getting the outcome they were.”
A well-trained workforce is about more than just keeping employees safe at work, Vasquez said. Having high standards for lineworkers improves the reliability of the electric system, and fewer safety incidents save the membership money. Safety, reliability, and affordability are interrelated priorities; Vasquez says improving one allows PEC to further improve the others, making it a better utility for those they serve.
“What this facility represents is PEC’s commitment to training and safety, and it prepares our employees for hazards they may encounter out in the field,” he said. “As far as we know, no other cooperative in the nation has this type of training facility.”
As part of its commitment to safety, PEC continues to follow CDC, state, and local guidelines during the pandemic, which means class sizes are limited and participants socially distance and wear face coverings. Luckily, PEC says the smaller class size also promotes an engaging learning environment, and they plan to continue with small classes in the future.
Interested in training at PEC’s Safety and Technical Training Center? First, you must join our team. Be sure to check our careers site regularly for apprentice and journeyworker openings. Once hired, all PEC apprentices must complete the program.