If you are going to be a line worker, you have to be strong, have the courage to climb to the tops of power lines, the driving skills to maneuver huge commercial vehicles, and the confidence to problem solve on the fly, in all weathers.
Gwen Bjorkman of Columbus exemplifies all of those traits. She’s one of 48 graduates from 7 different states in Highlands College’s Fall 2023 Pre-Apprentice Line Program.
Bjorkman says the one-semester program prepared her for a career field that fits her personality.
“I like working outside and with my hands, so this seemed like something I would enjoy,” Bjorkman said. “I’ve learned how to change bells, and change cross arms. If you like doing challenging things, I would recommend it.”
The work is physical. Students climb power poles 40 feet in the air and install bulky equipment.
“If you are in good shape, it’s easier,” Bjorkman notes.
There is some math involved, as line workers rely on calculations to ensure their physical work meets the tests of electrical theory.
“The hardest part for me was the math,” Bjorkman said.
Participants in the program also earn their Commercial Driving License, which entails driving an 18-wheeler and taking a proficiency test.
“It’s a stick shift, but you get the hang of it,” Bjorkman said.
Bjorkman hopes to land an electrical apprenticeship in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, or southeastern Washington. She would like to travel in the career.
“I plan on becoming a journeyman lineman and see where that takes me,” Bjorkman said.
As a woman, Bjorkman will be in the minority among line workers. Lineman Central’s annual survey found only 5.6% of women in the U.S. are line workers.
“It would be nice to see more women in the field,” Bjorkman said. “It takes a special type of person to do this work. You have to be tough.”
Bjorkman’s family and friends will travel to see her graduate and participate in the Line Rodeo at Highlands College on Dec. 8 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. All are invited to attend.