DEMEC Establishing First In-State Training Yard For Apprentice Lineworkers

August 17, 2021

by Paul Ciampoli
APPA News Director
August 17, 2021

The Delaware Municipal Electric Corporation (DEMEC) is establishing its first in-state training yard for eight municipalities to train apprentice lineworkers in best practices and servicing unique systems, DEMEC reported on August 10.

DEMEC bought five acres of land next to ShureLine Electrical in Delaware’s Smyrna Industrial Park in April. With a target opening of spring 2022, the wholesale power supplier is planning to install a series of utility poles, transformers and substation infrastructure on site to host classes for its membership.

DEMEC is a joint action agency that represents eight power-producing Delaware towns and cities that serve 99,200 people. Members include Clayton, Dover, Lewes, Middletown, Newark, New Castle, Seaford and Smyrna.

DEMEC noted in a news release that lineworkers are typically sent to out-of-state programs that may last up to two weeks for training that is required for the field. Delaware has no facility of its own to send lineworkers, and DEMEC has three utility poles behind its Smyrna headquarters for small training sessions.

The new facility will open up more possibilities for larger classes.

“In-state training will allow for greater member participation and cost savings. Additionally, it keeps lineworkers closer to home should services be required at a moment’s notice,” DEMEC Chief Operating Officer Kimberly Schlichting said in a statement. “Best practices and safety training for lineworkers is never-ending and is paramount for this line of work.”

Site improvements will include utility poles for climbing and bucket truck use, shorter poles for group demonstrations, meter panels, an underground training area, a substation training area as well as a sidewalk and a parking lot.

The training yard and program will be open to DEMEC members’ apprentice lineworker (levels 1 to 4), journey lineworkers, foremen and others. Outdoor hands-on training may range between 10 to 20 students, but apprentice training classes are expected to be small for a stronger instructor-to-student ratio, DEMEC said.

“It really comes down to the needs of our members at any point in time,” said Schlichting, who will become DEMEC CEO in October.

DEMEC’s training yard will give lineworkers more hands-on exercises, specifically in each Delaware town’s own distribution systems. Utility managers from DEMEC-associated towns each weighed in on the future training yard to ensure the tools available will help meet town-specific standards.

DEMEC officials see the training yard as a long-term investment, and if the program grows larger, then the hope would be to relocate to another site but keep the property for other uses.

“It’s conveniently located and provides convenient access to our members which span from the northern to southern municipalities in Delaware,” Schlichting said. “As technology continues to advance and change, so will best practices change. This program will allow our members to stay on top of those changes and even ahead of anticipated innovative practices.”

In a recent episode of the American Public Power Association’s Public Power Now podcast, Schlichting, Gary Johnston of the Lewes Board of Public Works in Delaware and Joshua Little of the Town of Smyrna, Delaware, discussed the Light Up Navajo project, an initiative to connect Navajo homes to the grid.

Click here for access to that episode as well as other Public Power Now podcast episodes.