Colorado country life march 2014 line tech article page 15
14 March 2014
BBelow the surface of the ocean or high
above the ground, Patrick Biegel likes a
little adventure in the workplace. “I’m
not really an office person. I can’t stay
inside all day,” Biegel said.
Biegel, 25, spent six years as an
underwater welder in the Gulf of
Mexico. He left that in 2011 to work at
a Colorado Springs bar and save money
for line school, a training program for
electrical lineworkers. He showed what
he learned in the 15-week program at a
recent “rodeo” that featured 20 graduat-
ing students performing skills they’ll
need on the job, while more than three
stories off the ground. All the gradu-
ates of the Trinidad State Junior College
Rocky Mountain Line School spent at
least 400 hours in the classroom and
another 100 hours on a pole, up to 35
feet above earth.
Adding to the pressure was a group
of professional observers, looking for new employees. “The last
class, I think we got three out of there. And the one before that,
I think we got two,” said Stan Plutt from Colorado Powerline in
At the “pole farm” at Pikes Peak Community College, instruc-
tor Dave King oversees a program that is now five years old and
runs under the authority of Trinidad State. Trinidad State also
operates a line technician program in Trinidad. Graduates come
away with 50 skills critical to electrical lineworkers, and they
are trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation, first aid, highway
safety and the operation of large trucks.
Hanging from poles all day, often in bad weather, is demand-
ing work. “Some guys and gals just aren’t made for this,” King
said. “This is really a tough job; (there are) a lot of hazards out
there and we have to watch each other’s backs and make sure
everyone goes home safe.”
Students come out of this program with a realistic idea of what
they’ll be doing each day.
Before moving to Colorado, Biegel specialized in underwater
demolition on obsolete oil platforms. His job included cutting
steel underwater. Though only in his early 20s, Biegel knew it
couldn’t last. “Diving to those deep depths every day, it takes a
toll on your body,” he said. “It messes up your joints, your spine.
You can get air embolisms, bubbles in your blood.” Now Biegel is
fully committed to becoming an electrical lineman. “I love it. It’s
just kind of what I like to do. Similar danger levels, I guess.”
The demand for electrical lineworkers is strong as baby boom-
ers retire and the nation’s energy grid grows.
Down the line …
Today, Biegel works primarily on underground wiring for new
home construction for Colorado Powerline in the Castle Rock
area. He started at $16 an hour and was given a raise after he hit
the 90-day mark. He said his training at Trinidad State pushed
him up the ladder in his field.
“They actually do hire guys that don’t go to school,” Biegel
said, “but they don’t hire them for nearly as much money, and
they take about six months to fully understand what’s going on.”
Comparing his new job with his old one, Biegel gave the nod
to electrical line work. “I feel it’s a lot safer. I mean it is danger-
ous, but every time I went under the water, I risked not coming
back up. It’s safer, you get to go home every day, I get to have a
life, and I get paid well.”
In December 2013, another class graduated from Rocky
Mountain Line School. This time, the rodeo featured another
challenge. Colorado was in the grip of a weeklong arctic blast.
Snow flurries threatened and the thermometer hovered between
5 and 10 degrees. But since these conditions are part of the life of
a line technician, the show went on.
The class of 22 climbed into the milky sky without hesitation.
“Most schools probably wouldn’t have graduation on a day like
this,” said T.J. Tompkins, a student from La Junta. “These guys
want to, to get us used to the real thing.”
Greg Boyce is the director of marketing and communications at Trini-
dad State Junior College.
APARTBY GREG BOYCE
Patrick Biegel (right) works with
climbing partner Levi Thaute at
a line tech rodeo at Pikes Peak
Community College in Colorado
Graduates from Rocky
Mountain Line School
skills on graduation
day, April 26, 2013.
A lone student braves
bitter cold at a line
stration in Colorado
Springs on December