Duke Energy has partnered with S.C Technical College to increase utility lineworkers across South Carolina.
The two parties will invest $1 million in grants to expand training opportunities for lineworkers.
The grants will fund existing energy workforce programmes or help create new initiatives at the state’s technical colleges. A committee will award grants twice a year with a maximum grant for any programme capped at $200,000.
This follows utilities facing a challenge of an aging workforce resulting in efforts to intensify the development of smart, secure and flexible energy networks.
Duke is expecting thousands of its workers to retire in the coming years, resulting in a shortage of workforce at a time when thousands of jobs will also be created, owing to the modernisation of its electric infrastructure.
The average tenure of a lineworker is between 20 to 30 years, but there are some who’ve been on the lines for more than 40 years working safe and providing excellent customer service, according to Duke Energy.
Kodwo Ghartey-Tagoe, Duke Energy’s South Carolina state president, said: “We are transforming the energy grid – making strategic, data-driven investments to improve reliability, use more solar and clean energy and provide customers with the intelligent information they need to make better energy choices and save money.
“These investments will reap benefits both immediately and in the years to come, but we must increase the talent pipeline for lineworkers here in South Carolina today to build the smart-thinking power grid of tomorrow.”
The project is part of the Carolinas Energy Workforce Consortium – a partnership of utilities in the two states have a sustainable, qualified workforce.
The demand for lineworkers in South Carolina is expected to increase to at least 500 lineworker hires every year for the next five years.
“Collaborating with industry to meet essential workforce needs is a key tenet of the S.C. Technical College System. This partnership with Duke Energy provides the perfect example of how our system strives to align our degrees and curriculum with community and industry needs,” said Dr. Tim Hardee, S.C. Technical College System president.