Some people are just born to be linemen. They come into this world with a spirit of adventure, a fierce work ethic and no fear of heights. As children, they gaze up at the soaring transmission towers and can't wait to climb them. They have a passion for the outdoors and would rather have a root canal than work a desk job.
Over the last few years, I've met scads of linemen who have continued the proud tradition of line work from one generation to the next. Here is an unofficial list of four reasons why line work stays in the family.
- Let's face it, it's a good job
After young people graduate from high school, their whole future lies ahead of them. Oftentimes, they are faced with four choices: go to college, study a trade, join the military or work an hourly job.
When Jacob Urquijo earned his high school diploma, he had three criteria while job hunting. He wanted a job that allowed him to make a good living, work outside and work with his hands. Line work fit the bill, so he entered an Arizona apprenticeship program following graduation. Interestingly, his father, who was a journeyman technician, entered the apprenticeship program at exactly the same time. The father and son are now both fifth-step apprentices in Arizona with Jacob working for Sturgeon Electric in Tucson and his father, Dan, working for Klondyke in Phoenix.
Jacob says line work is a proud trade, which is why it continues from one generation to the next.
“If your grandpa or dad was a lineman, and you want to make good money and work hard, then most of the time, you'll also want to get into the trade,” he said.
- Line work gets in the blood
The adventure of line work often attracts the children and grandchildren of linemen like a powerful magnet. At other times, they pursue another career only to find themselves being pulled back into the line trade.
Shannon Skinner went to college on an athletic scholarship, but every summer, she returned home to work construction. It wasn't long until she came to the conclusion that studying computers was not her passion. With a stepfather and twin uncles in the line trade, she eventually began working as a groundman for NV Energy. After 25 years, she is now leading a crew as a foreman, and she said she can't imagine doing anything else.
“I love the outdoors and using my brain and brawn,” she said.
- They grow up in the trade
If a person has a parent or grandparent in the trade, some of their earliest memories often revolve around line work. Take for example Garrett Smith, who was just nine years old when he drove around in his father's trouble truck on storm-damage-related calls. He remembers holding a flashlight and fighting to stay awake as he watched his father work.
“I loved it then, and when I look back, it was one of the coolest things I ever had to do,” he said. “Kids don't go out with their parents on the job like that anymore, but seeing him in action was impressive.”
Years later, the NV Energy foreman now runs a crew of his own and proudly wears the same hardhat as his father, Rick, who recently retired from NV Energy after 45 years in the trade.
- Family members work well together
Relatives often make good coworkers because they know each other better than anyone.
Just ask Rick, who said he would go to work for his son anytime because he respects Garrett's judgment and people skills.
“I know the dangers of line work, and I know his crew is working a lot of hours, but I know he will always do the right thing when it comes to safety,” Rick said.
In the past, Rick said the utility industry frowned on relatives working together because of the fear of nepotism, but he said this has gone by the wayside.
“There's so much experience that can be learned from parents or siblings in the line trade,” he said. “Some of the best linemen come from a family of line workers because they know what they're getting themselves into.”