PIE&G’s director of electric operations, Stan Chaskey, had the privilege of shaking hands with two apprentice linemen who recently graduated the apprentice program. The co-op makes a significant investment of resources in these employees, and each year several are chosen to begin their training in a four-year from the Joint Michigan Apprentice Program (JMAP) in Cadillac. To ensure that the cooperative has sufficient qualified linemen on staff now and in the future, PIE&G has been actively building the ranks of its electric linemen at the co-op. Stan and his team carefully review the resumés of applicants who aspire to the trade. One of the most important priorities is that prospective candidates can demonstrate a solid work ethic by having worked on a farm or during previous employment where similar physical- labor skills were necessary. It’s also a plus if the applicant possesses a Commercial Driver’s License (or CDL) and has any college-level electric lineworker certificates or applicable education.

After hire, these new employees start as electric groundmen. They must prove that they have the right stuff to become an apprentice. Stan trusts the seasoned journeymen at PIE&G with the task of evaluating these groundmen during the initial months after hire to determine which are the best candidates to enter into journeyman-level lineman program.

Five consecutive days of classes from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday–Friday, are held each spring and fall over four years at JMAP in Cadillac. In addition, each apprentice must attain 7,000 hours of on-the-job training to supplement the related classroom instruction. During the rest of the year, between classroom sessions, these apprentices receive that hands-on training at PIE&G by working under the direct supervision of other journeyman lineworkers.

Wolverine Power Cooperative, in partnership with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 876, and the Northwest Lineman College (NLC), developed an industry-leading educational institution that provides pre- apprentice, apprentice, and journeyman-level training for hundreds of companies throughout the United States and internationally. Graduates of NLC are highly regarded in the power delivery industry.

Satisfactory completion of the JMAP results in a Utility Worker Ticket from the Department of Labor. A graduate is then eligible to receive a “B” ticket from IBEW, Local 876, and may be eligible to receive “Journeyman A” status via testing administered by their local union.

Ken Wirgau, from Rogers City, was hired at PIE&G in 2016 and worked for two years as a natural gas technician. In 2018, he transferred into electric operations as an electric groundman. Jason Tribisondi, from Onaway, was hired at PIE&G in 2018 as an electric groundman. Both gentlemen worked under the supervision of a journeyman-level lineman, learning the ropes for the last four years while attending JMAP.