Commonwealth Edison, Consumers Energy, DTE Energy, KCP&L, NiSource, Vectren, We Energies and five other companies have joined in a coalition to create a common skills, classroom, and online electric line specialist training program. The program will provide utilities, contractors, and vocational schools with industry consensus content and will include instructor and student learning materials in print and multi-media formats that will speed learning and enhance retention.

"It's time we developed a line specialist training program that represents the consensus of our industry and one that we can share with our vocational school partners so that they can help us prepare the next generation of electric distribution professionals," explained Bill Doty, executive vice president, Energy Delivery, Vectren and chairman of Midwest Energy Association.

"I know that each of our participating companies is proud of their own training efforts. But by working together we can enhance the learning opportunities for today's and tomorrow's employees with learning tools few of us can afford on our own," said Earnie Lehman, president and general manager of Midwest Energy Inc. and MEA Chairman for 2008-09.

MEA's initiative will produce a full complement of classroom and online courses for overhead and underground line work. Nearly 30% of the content is already complete, with the balance to be created over the next 24 months. The overall package will parallel the complete gas field skills program that hundreds of companies have been relying on for DOT compliance and general training since the mid 1990s. The gas package has been consistently updated to match DOT requirements and is now in classroom, CD-ROM and online formats at utilities, contractors and vocational schools.

"We are committed to building and maintaining the electric line specialist program with the same quality and low, shared cost model as we have with the gas materials," explained Patrick Van Beek, MEA president. "The final electric program will reflect the combined expertise of all the participating companies, yet it will allow each company to customize the content to their own specific work procedures. The online option allows current employees to refresh their training 24/7. Vocational schools will no longer have to create content from scratch, they can rely on the new electric program curriculum, knowing that it is exactly what the industry wants."

Other participating companies include, City Utilities of Springfield, Lincoln Electric System, Michels Power, Midwest Energy, Inc. and Omaha Public Power District. Participation is under consideration at a number of companies and more are expected to join the coalition as its awareness grows.

Midwest ENERGY Association (MEA) is an energy service organization. MEA helps members increase revenues and decrease operating costs through cooperative programs of information sharing, education, training, and mutual problem-solving. MEA's members include 83 distribution companies, four transmission companies, 4 marketing companies, over 170 associate companies, and over 978 individuals. MEA also provides high value operations training to companies in all 50 states and 16 foreign countries.