By Tracy Correa Lopez
BAKERSFIELD — With eyes lifted toward the sky, a group of high school students watched PG&E’s Chase Harrah scale a utility pole to rescue a 200-pound dummy.
It was the “hurt man rescue” demonstration meant to showcase just some of the unique skills linemen master as part of their jobs.
“That’s your buddy up there. He has a wife and kids. He’s down,” said Chase Harrah, a Bakersfield-based apprentice lineman, just before he ascended the pole for the rescue.
Harrah was part of group of PG&E employees that provided demonstrations and information for the students at the company’s service yard on Wible Road last week.
The 33 teens were learning about jobs in the energy industry as part of Youth Leadership Bakersfield, a program offered by the Greater Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce designed to inspire and develop future business and community leaders.
Watching Harrah rescue a dummy was only a portion of what the students learned about work as a lineman. They also took part in simulations of some the critical work linemen perform every day in providing electricity for PG&E customers.
“We practice and we train,” said Jesse Morelos, electric crew foreman, on how they have to always be prepared.
The rescue of the dummy, for example, is done in less than four minutes. Typically about two minutes, explained lineman Tony Humbert.
Alberto Vazquez, 18, and a senior at Mira Monte High School, got to try a lock and switch procedure just like a lineman would perform atop a power pole. He performed the simulated repair close to the ground and on an inactive pole, but it wasn’t easy wearing a heavy tool belt as he tried to navigate the long pole to close the disconnect at the top.
“It’s harder than I thought,” said Vazquez. “It’s also inspiring,” to see what they do, he said.
In another hands-on task, students tried attaching a thick wire, known as a tap guard, to an inactive electric line that was just a few feet off the ground. They wore protective gloves, just like a lineman would, which only added to the task’s difficulty.
Juan Contreras, 15, from Foothill High School grimaced as he wrestled with the wire before asking for assistance from Harrah.
Students heard about what it’s like to be a lineman, the responsibility and hard work.
“It’s a great job,” said Humbert, who has worked in the industry 14 years, 11 years as a lineman.
He who talked about how everyone relies on electricity, no matter where they live: “Electricity is everywhere.”
Humbert told students that working as a lineman has allowed him to work in 33 states for a number of companies before coming to PG&E.
Melissa Rossiter, marketing and communications manager for the Greater Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce, said the youth leadership program is meant to expose teens to a variety of industry sectors including health care, law, arts and agriculture.
“They get to see a broad range of careers,” she said. “The overall goal is to show them what Bakersfield has to offer.”
Earlier in the day, students learned about electric safety with a demonstration of PG&E’s electric demo board. They also heard about other PG&E careers in gas operations and service planning and design.
After the PG&E event, the teens visited Aera Energy in Bakersfield.
Email Tracy Correa Lopez at Tracy.Correa@pge.com.