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Posted on June 11, 2012

Oakland: Aspiring Utility Workers Learn Pole Climbing Skills During ‘High Voltage Cirque du Soleil’

A group of about 20 aspiring utility workers participated in one of the most important requirements of any electric line worker—climbing a wooden utility pole.

Utility pole climbing class

Students take part in a Power Pathway course at a new pole climbing yard at PG&E’s Oakport Service Center in Oakland. (Photo by Brian Swanson.)

The training on Friday (June 8) is part of PG&E’s PowerPathway program that’s helping individuals to be better prepared for utility jobs such as pre-apprentice line workers.

Students from Oakland’s Cypress Mandela Training Center and Workforce Institute, a division of San Jose/Evergreen Community College District, are the first to participate in this three-week pole climbing course.

A new pole climbing training facility was recently built at PG&E’s Oakport Service Center in Oakland to provide a training location for students participating in the free program.

“The point of this program is to get these folks in a better position to get hired with PG&E,” Jeff Wilding, director of electric operations training for PG&E, told the Contra Costa Times. “It significantly increases their odds.”

KTVU-TV referred to the exercise as a “high voltage Cirque du Soleil.” The students, harnessed to the 40-foot poles, wore heavy work clothes and spiked boots. Climbing a power pole is necessary to repair electrical wires.

“It’s harder than it looks at first,” Olatungi Lawrence said. “After you get your rhythm, after you get the techniques that the instructors tell you, it gets a little easier.”

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