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  1. Default Ask An NLC Grad Anything - Northwest Lineman College

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    Many men want to know the best way to break into electrical work. There are many questions about trade schools on the forums but there seem to be few answers. Hopefully this will answer some questions from first hand experience.

    A lot of you are going to have second thoughts about this industry once you figure out what live-line work is. Or the first time you climb a 90 foot wood pole on a windy day. This is not for everyone.

    NLC is expensive. With all the bells and whistles the cost is almost $15K or about $1000/week. As others have said there is no guarantee of employment. So what do you get for all this time and effort?

    The school is split into two main sections: Academics and Field Work. The academics consist of grade school math and science. There is very little to learn here. Between working on the calculator and memorizing OSHA sections you will not take away much practical knowledge.

    Field work is practicing basic chores such as hanging a crossarm or changing insulators. These are not complicated or strenuous task. However they can be very challenging when working with nonfunctional or nonexistant materials. Frequently there are more students than work stations so the day consist of "hurry up and wait". Since the task are simple NLC created a way to test the students: racing. Everything you do in the field is a race against the clock. Its not how good you do it, its how fast you can do it. This would have disastrous results as we will see later.

    In the field you will work in four (4) men crews. In the first half the session your team will be random (by last name). Halfway thru the term you will change crews. This is where it gets interesting. NLC will pair (2) high performers with (2) men who are struggling. Before I met my new crew I was told privately that it would consist of (2) failing students and it was my job to get them thru graduation. I spent the last half of the term more-or-less babysitting my crew.

    In the classroom at NLC you will learn that safety is a value. Priorities change but values never do. You will also learn that safety is left in the classroom and not practiced in the field. OSHA required hearing protection has to be requested by the student- and might be able to get it. The first aid kits on the campus are years beyond expiration. Basic tools such as insulation strippers are in short supply so the students are instructed to use their personal pocket knives. This practice resulted in two (2) injuries requiring medical care. Another individual managed to belt over the top of a pole while racing (i.e. Fell off). This is something that should never happen but in fact occured in the previous term as well. Standing in the hospital talking to a doctor about the patients injuries and future care was no fun.

    The career course at NLC consists of little more than telling students to fill out online applications. Zero experience + online applications is a poor way to find a job. But there is always the union. I signed on with two halls as a groundman. I was told they do not recognize NLC training and it would be a multi-month wait for work. We had four (4) recruiters speak to us on campus. Two (2) of them said they were not hiring (really). Only a handful of men found jobs in this manner.

    The campus facilities, classroom material and marketing at NLC are of the highest quality. Unfortunately NLC is All Show / No Go. I now understand why the old hands look down on these new schools. Northwest Lineman College is a premium-priced school that fails to deliver. If you want to do Electrical Utility work by all means go get a job. But don't waste your time and money at school.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
    Location
    San Diego
    Posts
    67

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    Very good post, glad to see the brutal honesty. I had no idea is cost $15k. My apprentice class was full of NLC grads but I agree that they were no better off than us home growns. Their climbing skills were good. We used to call them boomer apprentices because they came from all over. I can't believe they would have you use your own pocket knife for skinning and to have guys go over the top of the pole is crazy.

    Have you found work since NLC?

  3. Default

    And the only relevant question is, what percentage of graduates are in an apprentice program within six months.

  4. #4

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    Here in the UK I try to encourage the younger guys to get a proper apprenticeship. They will learn more and get paid to do it.

    All modern "education" systems are just a way for a few people to make an easy living.
    Portable defibrillators were first invented to save the lives of linemen. Where's yours?

    www.bigclive.com

  5. Default Too bad

    Man that is too bad. I went to the Idaho campus about 10 years ago and learned a lot. Especially the transformer lab where I could actually get my hands on things helped me.
    I hope this isn't everyone's experience with the school now days...what a shame

    what campus did you go to?

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Location
    Sacramento, Ca
    Posts
    127

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    While I can see some peoples issue with NLC, I for one LOVE it. Im graduating next week from the California campus. Many of the guys I go to school with already have jobs. Jobs that were brought to their attention by NLC. I think its a great school. I have learned a lot. Yes, the math is dulled down, but its whats necessary for an entry level worker to have a basic understandunderstanding of what he's talking about out in the field. As for the crews amd the racing, working fast is what breeds efficiency. We've had a few accidents, but noy because of faulty equipment, faulty people performing the tasks is what happened. My first crew was set up by last name. My second crew was chosen by the school and all of us are very strong climbers and performers. Now, I dont want to say that your situation is the norm, nor do I want to say mine is either, but my opinion is that NLC is worth it. Ive learned more here than I ever did in any other school. Just my 2 cents.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Mar 2014
    Location
    San Diego
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    I just met a guy yesterday who graduated from NLC, he said that you guys have to use the super squeeze to climb now? I've used the buck squeeze before and **** be true it would be a nightmare on a riser pole or anything other than a slick pole. It also made me cut out alot because it brought me close to the pole when I would lift up. He did say that you guys learned xfmer connections, which will help you alot in the future. From what I've been hearing NLC in pumping guys out like crazy. Its a good way to get in the trade nowadays.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Location
    Sacramento, Ca
    Posts
    127

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    Ive free climbed, hitch hiked, climbed with the buck, and just spent the last 4 months in the super. The super is WAY more efficient than the buck. I still prefer to free climb because it promotes proper form, but OSHA has put an end to that... I just keep my squeeze in adjustment and I stay where I need to be on the pole. Transferring is a bit of a ***** because you dont have the freedom you do whem free climbing, but you get used to it. Its not too bad on a riser pole. I didnt have any problems with it. But it is a little annoying knowing that you have to use that thing even though when on a riser pole its about a 50/50 shot that its gonna catch you or just slide down the conduit. Lol. Just dont rely on it and dont gaff out. A lot of us just run it lean and treat it like a skid. Even on slick poles.lol

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2009
    Location
    Wisconsin
    Posts
    1,343

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    Line schools are a good place to start. Companies hiring new apprentice line mechanics take the hire's resume into consideration no doubt.
    However the utility I was employed at ran their own training course. And the first thing we did was to check the climbing skills. A seasoned line mechanic can see how well a new kid can climb in a very short time, maybe minutes. Then there are discussions on tools and material and it don't take long to see who knows an insulink from a tension sleeve. The part we notice most is the new hire's lack of understanding how to install an overhead triplex service. Granted there aren't many of those going up these days but there are a few being replaced for various reasons. New guys get put on crews doing smaller service work and are needed to be efficient in being a grunt/gofer, once the new guy seems on the ball they graduate to some light pole work, secondary only, then step up to primary and so on. The $15,000.00 spent on school is only a foot in the door but a good way in. Don't come out of there thinking you got this made, because there are people watching all the time. Good luck whatever happens.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Location
    Sacramento, Ca
    Posts
    127

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    T-Man. Very well said. Like I said, the skills they teach us are VERY basic. Single arms, double arms, dead end changeouts, pole setting, transformers, some insulator changeouts on transmission structures, and some underground work. There's a few people that think they know everything, but many of us understand that our knowledge is basic and there's still A LOT to learn.

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