SPEDA Linemen training

From left, Somerset Community College Vice President of Workforce Solutions Alesa Johnson, Lake Cumberland Area Development District Executive Director Darryl McGaha, SPEDA President and CEO Chris Girdler, SCC President and CEO Carey Castle, South Kentucky RECC CEO Kevin Newton and Lineman Training Coordinator Dean Rhodes.

The Somerset-Pulaski Economic Development Authority (SPEDA) board of directors has voted to donate property to Somerset Community College (SCC) that has been used as a Lineman Training Center for the last 12 years.

The eight-acre tract of land and building behind Valley Oak Technology Complex is home to SCC’s Lineman Training Program, a $2.5 million partnership between the college, SPEDA, South Kentucky RECC, Lake Cumberland Area Development District, and American Electric Power. Many other utility industry partners have also donated equipment and materials to support the Lineman Training Center since its inception.

The idea was born from the need for regional utility companies and cooperatives to provide training for entry-level linemen and, at the time, a decline in the number of linemen nationwide. The closest training facility was in Georgia, a five-hour drive away.

Today, SCC’s Lineman Training Center offers its training course every nine weeks year-round. The curriculum uses proven training methods taught by instructors with extensive experience in the utility industry. Upon completion of the course, students have spent about 240 hours in the field and have all the necessary training to enter the line utility industry.

“Many years ago, the vision to create this entity by South Kentucky RECC along with Somerset Community College and others was well ahead of its time,” SPEDA President and CEO Chris Girdler said. “Many throughout the country have tried to replicate this model and it is a national leader.” 

In the beginning, SPEDA’s predecessor, the development foundation, offered to provide the 8-acre property for the project as well as apply for a grant to help fund building the training center on the grounds. As the development foundation was dissolved and SPEDA was created to take its place, SPEDA retained ownership of the property.

Girdler said donating this property to SCC is another way in which SPEDA can contribute to education and workforce development efforts.

“Somerset Community College is a tremendous asset for the entire Lake Cumberland region,” Girdler said. “SCC’s Lineman Training Center has a tremendous track record of success and we are excited to give the college this property. I believe this will help the center to excel even further and I’m also thrilled to see SCC expanding its physical footprint in our community.” 

SCC President and CEO Dr. Carey Castle said the Lineman Training Program has become one of the nation’s most expansive and comprehensive training centers of its kind because of innovative thinking and continued support from economic development and industry partners.

“We are immensely grateful for South Kentucky RECC’s vision to bring this training to our region and for SPEDA’s ongoing commitment to its success,” Castle said. “We are thrilled to accept ownership of the property and remain committed to offering workforce training opportunities that enhance economic development in our region. The Lineman Center is a wonderful demonstration of industry, economic development, area development district, and educational partners working together to advance training needs in our area and we want to thank all the partners who have donated funding, equipment, materials, and supplies to the center.”

Girdler said SPEDA will continue to keep education and workforce development as a top priority, seeking ways to collaborate and partner with public and private sectors to enhance economic development and promote community unity.

“I thank the SPEDA board of directors for their generous hearts and mindsets,” Girdler said. “They are all fully committed to seeing this community prosper and dedicate countless hours of service to see that happen. This is another example of their ability to see the big picture and look at the long game of what is best for our community.”

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