Northern Lights Apprenticeship Program

Apprentice Judson Hall prepares a pole for installation. Photo by Dan Wanous

Northern Lights, Inc (NLI’s) journeyman lineman apprenticeship program is a 3-year training and development program for new linemen. The program follows the recommended basic standards of the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Apprenticeship, and the apprenticeship program through the Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee of the Northwest Line Construction Industry through International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 77.

NLI’s program requires 6,000 hours of on-the-job learning while working alongside journeymen linemen.

As the apprentice advances through the program, their field skills advance. To start, apprentices learn about safety, tools, and non-energized work, including installing crossarms, guys, and transformers. They progress into setting poles, meters and using power equipment.

Once the apprentice has received the required amount of training, they move into “hot work,” which includes energized linework and assisting with emergency repairs.

In addition to on-the-job learning, apprentices are required to attend 144 hours of classroom training off-site each year for a total of 432 hours of classroom training over 3 years. This training is held with other utilities in the region that have apprentices. The apprentices also attend a 2-week program at Camp Rilea in Oregon that includes hands-on skills in the field during the day and classroom training in the evening.

Throughout the 3-year apprenticeship, exams and skills tests verify the apprentice has the knowledge to advance to the next step. There are 6 steps an apprentice goes through.

Internally, NLI has an apprenticeship committee that reviews each apprentice’s progress and identifies any areas that need further development.

At the end of the apprenticeship, a final exam is taken off-site. Apprentices also need to be endorsed by several journeymen linemen at NLI before becoming a journeyman lineman.

Currently, NLI has 3 apprentices. Ethen Krueger and Judson Hall started working at NLI this past summer as groundmen and have recently become apprentices. Both are at step one and are on the path to becoming journeymen linemen over the next 3 years. Dusten Hongslo is a sixth-step apprentice at NLI and will take his final exam in September.

Becoming a lineman through the apprenticeship program is not an easy task. However, the dedication and effort needed to pass, prepare apprentices for the challenges and difficulties linemen face daily in their jobs.

Kristin MettkeNorthern Lights Engineering & Operations Manager Kristin Mettke is an electrical engineer and has worked in the electric utility industry most of her career.