When Gordon Cooper Technology Center (GCTC) in Shawnee, Oklahoma, received feedback from Citizen Potawatomi Nation and other local entities that there was a need for linemen training, the school set up a new program to fill the gap. Now, CPN Electrical Director Justin Whitecotton hopes it will lead to opportunities to hire employees for the Tribe.

“We’re on the advisory committee with Gordon Cooper,” Whitecotton said, explaining how the program started. “They got some industry leaders together, basically, and asked us what we would prefer to see in the training program.”

Sarah Weeks, director of business and career services for GCTC, said the first class started in September 2023, and it will go through the middle of December. From there, the students will have the option to take CDL training in January.

However, when they finish the linemen training in December, graduates will be ready to start as a pre-apprentice with a company.

In the training, she said students learn a variety of things, including design, construction, how to pack a bag to go out on a job site, bucket rescue and various safety certifications.

“We have a team of three adjuncts, all of them retired linemen, and they are the instructors,” Weeks said. “They’re the ones teaching them how to put their gear on and do things correctly.”

Instructors for the program are Jr. Lowden, a CPN member who retired from OG&E; Bobby Shatto, who retired from OG&E; Gerald Rounsaville, who retired from Canadian Valey Electric Company; and Trey Williams, who is a subject matter consultant for the class.

Each Thursday, GCTC also partners with local companies to help with the training.
CPN had the opportunity to be one of those partners, and the class came out to see CPN facilities and equipment.

“We showed them some of the things they would actually see out on the job,” Whitecotton said, from walking students through CPN’s substation to showing them where the electricity enters the building at the end of the line. “Just showing them every step of the way, parts and pieces. We showed them a bucket truck and some of the equipment they’d use. Not hands on out here, but to see how it’s used, so when they get hands on work in class, they’ll understand it better.”

Weeks said the class will be offered once a year, every September, with up to 10 students accepted per year. The first class didn’t quite fill up, with six students enrolled, but she said word is getting out and she’s already had several enquiries about next year’s class.

“We expect the next one to fill up pretty quickly,” she said.

Whitecotton hopes the program will get good publicity to develop the student pool and lead to future recruitment opportunities.

“Not just for us. It’s good for the county and surrounding areas,” he said. “I know from the electrician program that they do a very good job … They teach them the basics and they make them good employees.”

Weeks said the training is all about GCTC’s partners and adjuncts, who lend their knowledge to the students.

“Without our adjuncts and people like Justin (Whitecotton) and CPN that let us come out and tour their facilities, it would not be successful,” she said. “We look forward to our graduates working with them in the area for years to come.”