For those interested in pursuing a physically demanding job that requires plenty of thinking, power line technician, (also known as lineman/woman), may be just the career for you. Whether it's maintaining outdated power lines or restoring electricity to communities after Mother Nature strikes, this profession is a demanding but rewarding way to earn your keep.
Power line technicians work primarily outdoors, often in remote locations, and are constantly on the move. Those in this profession must be physically fit, manually dextrous, able to work at high heights for long periods, and have good co-ordination and colour vision.
You get to cover a lot of territory because you work with power lines all across the grid, all across the country, says Michelle Branigan, CEO of the non-profit organization Electricity HR Canada. It's not a job for those that like office work or the stability of a rigid nine-to-five schedule.
Cole Crooks, a power line technician coordinator with SaskPower, was a journeyman electrician before training for the power line trade. I was looking for a change and found this trade appealing due to the opportunities it offered along with being able to work outside, he explains.
It's a field that's also expanding throughout the female demographic. There are more women starting to go into our industry and to go into the trades, says Branigan.
Primary duties of this trade include: erecting and maintaining electrical poles, towers, and guy wires; installing and repairing things like overhead and underground power lines, cables, transformers, and conductors; and working with power distribution and transmission networks. Typically they are employed by electric power companies, electrical contractors, and public utility commissions.
The power line technician trade is provincially governed by the Red Seal Program, an organization that guarantees skilled trades workers have completed proper qualifications before they receive certification.
Employers in Canada and around the world increasingly require highly skilled workers and the Red Seal Program promotes a national standard for training excellence, says Anna Maddison, media relations spokesperson of ministerial communications services with Employment and Social Development Canada.
Maddison explains that apprenticeship programs are generally administered by provincial and territorial departments responsible for education, labour, and training, (under the direction of the provincial and territorial director of apprenticeship), with authority delegated from the legislation in each province and territory. The length of time and training involved in becoming a power line technician varies from province to province, and most provinces offer college programs that lay out a path that provides courses and co-op placements to build the required apprenticing hours.
The inherent risks involved in working with high voltage systems are diminished through in-depth apprenticing and training. If you learn to identify hazards, look after your tools and equipment, stay focused on your work, and follow approved work procedures, the risk can be virtually eliminated, says Crooks.
The trade's job prospects and salary are both stable and promising. According to a Service Canada survey of Quebec, electrical power line and cable workers on average make $71,526 per year, with 97 per cent of these workers in full-time positions.
There are also multiple opportunities for advancement. You can advance to foreman, line supervisor positions, and even training roles, explains Branigan, adding that most in this profession are also offered strong benefit packages.
Whether just starting your career or considering a switch, the power line technician trade will keep you both mentally and physically active.
Crooks' advice? If you take pride in your work, believe in always doing your best, and thrive in challenging situations then this will be a very rewarding career.