MECC Receives Grant to Launch Power Lineman Program

Big Stone Gap, VA – Mountain Empire Community College has been awarded a $950,000 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commissions’ POWER Initiative to establish the region’s only power lineman training program.

The non-credit lineman training will enable students to earn a number of credentials to prepare them for entry into an apprenticeship program with the power distribution industry. MECC’s 14-15 week power program will incorporate a variety of competencies and certifications requested by employers, including OSHA-10 safety certification; CPR/First Aid; National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) Core Basic certification; Virginia Department of Transportation Traffic Control training; Chainsaw Safety, Forklift Operator certification; Commercial Driver’s License (CDL); and NCCER Line Power Worker Certification.

The grant will help fund the start-up costs of the program, including hiring faculty, as well as purchasing vehicles and educational supplies needed for instruction.  

MECC is partnering with power industry employers to develop and implement the training curriculum that equips participants for entry-level employment as apprentice utility line workers. The Flatwoods Job Corps Center, in Coeburn, Va., will provide a training site and dormitory space for individuals who must travel to the region to participate in this intensive training. Some Flatwoods Job Corps Center students are expected to participate in the program.

MECC anticipates operating the program on a full time schedule of four 10-hour days each week, with Fridays reserved for career exploration, studying, job shadowing, and related activities.

Power utilities usually hire entry-level employees as power groundman (or apprentice linemen). These workers participate in employer-specific training and apprenticeship programs to become journeyman linemen. This progression typically takes approximately four to five years to complete, with the salary increasing as apprentices develop the required skills to be promoted to the position of lineman.

 “The power groundman and lineman career pathway presents a rare opportunity for former coal miners to retrain for jobs with the potential to replace the high wages formerly offered by the coal industry,” said MECC President Scott Hamilton. “The demand for power line workers is largely the result of large-scale retirements of experienced linemen across the industry. Workforce demographics, combined with aging electrical transmission and distribution infrastructure and an insufficient pipeline of younger workers entering middle-skilled technical careers, have focused industry attention on the development of more linemen as a critical priority.”

For more information on the power lineman program, contact Tommy Clements, MECC Dean of Applied Science and Technology at 276.523.2400 ext. 431 or by email at