By Kevin Juhasz
For Huskie Tools
They’re up there on the pole or in the bucket, working away at maintenance or restoring power. Most people won’t even think about what they had to do to reach that point.
It’s never a case of filling out an application, going through a few days of training and then being a lineman. Getting to the top of that pole requires a serious amount of education.
“What it takes” is the focus of a show called Woodwalkers, which is about to debut its newest season.
Huskie Tools is proud to be a sponsor of the show, which follows students attending the Southeast Lineman Training Center as they navigate their way through the school’s 15-week Electrical Program or 7-Week Communications Program in a quest to launch a career as a lineworker. It also gives a glimpse into the lives of some of the students and what factored into their decision to become a lineworker. Season 1 of Woodwalkers is available now to stream on Amazon Prime.
The students are guided through this journey by a few of SLTC’s 18 full-time instructors. Woodwalkers demonstrates that the instructors are there to make sure the students are well-prepared to begin the quest to become a lineman. They don’t coddle their students, showing they are tough, honest and fair to the men and women that are under their guidance.
One of the instructors explains very bluntly in an episode of the first season that if a student isn’t cutting it, they’ll let them know they aren’t cutting it. At that point, it becomes up to the student to decide if they want to improve or throw in the towel. The bluntness is necessary since linework is one of the nation’s most dangerous trades and lives are at stake.
With their honesty, however, the instructors also demonstrate support, encouragement, and concern for the students they educate. They teach the students how to use lineman tools and put the students through situations they will encounter out in the field, including simulations of emergencies they might be forced to confront.
The show gives viewers a look at the ups and downs of the training. From success and celebrations to dismissal from the school, Woodwalkers doesn’t shy from showing what happens at SLTC. In addition, Woodwalkers shows the lighter side of attending the school, including how students are helped to relax and the enjoyment they can experience in this line of work.
The season caps off the journey by showing the graduation celebrations and a rodeo the school puts on. Season 2 is currently in post-production and a premiere date will be announced soon.
Woodwalkers was created by SLTC and is the most recent step in a project to inform people about the school and the career. Woodwalkers began as a documentary and turned into a web series that chronicled life at the school. It then evolved into the Woodwalkers TV series, which is produced by Super Chief, a production company based out of Chattanooga, TN.
Jared Anders, Marketing Director at SLTC, explained that the show has two purposes. The first is to create a series that would introduce viewers to a profession they may not otherwise consider. Many of the nation’s current lineworkers are getting close to retirement, and the school wants to help attract attention to the industry.
The second was to give people a look at the first steps taken before a person becomes a lineworker and how critical the profession is to society. When there is praise of the work of first responders and government officials during a disaster, lineworkers tend not to be among the mentions, even though they fall under that category.
“The show is not only the telling the story of these people’s lives and giving people a real-life look into what line work can be like,” Anders explained, “it’s also an opportunity to bring more awareness to the industry.”
Anders added that the school had conducted interviews with people about their feelings during power loss, which showed that people tend to feel less safe and alone, which means the industry has to replace retiring workers to make sure power is restored as quickly as possible.
“That’s the heart of the show – bringing awareness to the people who are working hard to make our lives easier and possible,” he said.
Southeast Lineman Training Center, which has over 100 acres of training facilities in Trenton, Ga., was founded in 1999 by George Nelson as a means to prepare workers for entry-level jobs in the industry. The school’s 18 full-time instructors teach more than 250 students per class in both electrical and communications programs.
In its first year, the school was a single trailer with just one pole circle for training, and had 15 students in its inaugural graduating class. Now the school uses more than 400 poles per class and graduates around 700 students annually.