It takes a lot to work on the electricity grid – and learning to repair wires or other equipment is only part of the picture.
Students in the central and western parts of our service area are getting the full story thanks to Chuck Wood, field manager-Distribution Operations.
Chuck, who’s based in Bloomsburg, volunteers his time to meet with vocational and technical school classes. He shares information about field careers and tells students what they need to do – personally and academically – to prepare.
He’s spoken at the SUN Area Technical Institute in New Berlin, Columbia-Montour Area Vocational-Technical School in Bloomsburg, Triangle Tech in Sunbury, and the Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport. He also serves on a SUN Tech advisory board. (You can read about one of Chuck’s recent classroom visits, and see a photo, here.)
Chuck even sets up time to bring students to the Bloomsburg and Sunbury service centers, where they see work areas firsthand and visit an electrical substation.
“When you stand in front of them and say, ‘I work on transformers that are the size of your home’s two-car garage,’ they say, ‘Oh, yeah.’ But when they get to be 20 feet away from it, they really get an idea of what it looks like.”
Chuck’s story is a classic case of “I wish they’d had this when I was a kid”: When he was a vo-tech high school student, he was not made aware of careers in the utility industry. He spent time doing residential and industrial wiring before coming to PPL in 2001.
“I said, ‘No one ever told us about this in high school – these types of voltages or this type of work,’” Chuck says. “Of course, utility work isn’t for everyone. But I like to give the kids information so they know it’s an option to consider.”
When he goes to schools, Chuck brings what he calls his “little box of goodies” – including a set of the rubberized sleeves and gloves that line workers wear, and a fire-resistant shirt. Students get to try on the gear.
He also brings real-world advice. One example: Keep a clean driving record, because line workers need to get commercial driver’s licenses, and having a DUI or other charge on your record could interfere.
“You may have to stand up to peer pressure, and not wind up in a situation that’s going to stay with you for years to come,” he says. “That 18-to-20-year-old age range is a tough time to stay away from those issues, but it’s important.”
The payback, he says, is the potential for a rewarding and challenging career.
“If they want a career where they can make a nice living, and also do interesting work, the utility industry is a good place to do that,” he says.
Stay tuned to PPL Stories for more stories of PPL Electric Utilities employees’ service to their communities.