LUCEDALE, Miss. (WLOX) - It’s not the job for those with a fear of heights, but it is always in demand, and people are always happy to see you after a storm.
A program at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College George County Center has been training linemen for 21 years, making sure there is never a shortage.
“It is such a successful program, and we are so tied in with industry that they find that they can come here for that one semester and go straight to work,” said Lisa Rhodes, Administrative Dean of the George County Center. “They are in high demand.”
The program’s success is largely thanks to all of the regional power companies that serve on the program’s advisory board, donate equipment, and most importantly, hire the graduates. About 700 students have completed the program and entered the workforce.
“It’s a real rewarding class to teach," said instructor Hildred Ivey. "Because you see them go out into the world, get a job.”
Ivey worked for Singing River Electric for 35 years before he became an instructor.
“It’s hard work, but it’s fun doing it,” he said. “When you get people’s lights on, it’s more enjoyable. You know you’re helping somebody.”
He has seen many people show their thanks.
“We went on some ice storms and you see these people, they’ll treat you so good. It can be freezing cold and they’re out there bringing you hot chocolate," Ivey said.
He has also enjoyed teaching as well. He is in his 20th year with the program.
“The biggest thing is to teach them safety. Don’t get complacent thinking you won’t get hurt because you will. That’s the biggest part.”
Ivey said he also finds himself teaching some life skills, too.
“The ones just out of high school. I call it high school syndrome,” Ivey said. “They’re wanting to do as little as they can, but you have to tell them, ‘Look, do you want to get fired or do you want to stay on the job?’”
One student gave up his job working in the financial world to join the program.
“What a great opportunity it is to set yourself up for a great career,” said Philip Chandler of Wiggins.
“I graduated and went to work and decided I wanted to be outside in an environment that changes every day," he said. “Keeps it interesting.
"So I jumped on the opportunity and was lucky enough to get into the class and be able to spend four months out here and learn a trade that I’ll be able to use the rest of my life.
“I’m excited about this because I believe this is exactly what I’m looking for.”