NewsCovering Colorado


Learning high demand skills for high paying jobs

Posted at 11:26 PM, Apr 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-19 07:55:45-04

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado — Americans celebrated the hard and sometimes dangerous work of the men and women who keep the nation's electric grid work Sunday on National Lineworker Appreciation Day.

This week, News 5 met up with the staff and students who are preparing for careers in this field at the Rocky Mountain Linemen School in El Paso County.

Alexander Martinez lives in Denver and makes the trip to Colorado Springs Utilities Pinello Ranch training facility near Fountain each day.

"We come in, 8:00 in the morning and do some book work and from 12:30 to 4:00 we're outside doing work stuff out here," Martinez explained.

He is one of 31 students expected to graduate from the school at the end of the month. Twenty-nine of them are men two are women.

"I'm here to better my life, better my career, just to kind of support my family," Martinez said.

Lead instructor Kelly McGillivray said students can expect to earn respectable salaries soon after graduation.

"Some of these students will come out making $40,000 to $50,000," McGillivray said. "Some of them, after a year, they're making $100,000 or even more."

It's high-pay for a high-demand job. There's a national shortage of transmission lineworkers.

"We've had a job opening for a couple of years now and I think industry-wide that's been the case," said Michael Buckner, a foreman with Colorado Springs Utilities.

Buckner was among the first students to graduate from the school in 2008 when Trinidad State Junior College teamed up with Colorado Springs Utilities to create the facility.

He said the job comes with risks. Lineworkers must do their work high off ground, very close to power lines, and usually in poor weather conditions.

"But if you, as a crew, talk about it and you do the proper precautions; you test and ground it, here at utilities there's a big culture of safety, so we make sure everyone gets home safe," Buckner said.

The 15-week classes take place in the spring and fall of each year. A one-week break is scheduled at the halfway mark each semester. While linemen school is not a requirement for the job, McGillivray said it does improve your chances of getting hired.

"Our job placement right now with our kids coming out of the classes is a little over 90 percent. It could be 100 percent if the students actually want to travel," he said. "Once they get out of here they are in demand."

As part of the graduation celebration, the students will participate in a Linemen's Rodeo on April 30th where they can demonstrate their new skills to friends and relatives.