Duquesne Light Co.’s (DLC) engaging Electrical Distribution Technology (EDT) certification program has led to a lifelong career for the hundreds of determined students who have completed it since its inception more than a decade ago.
“Our goal at DLC is to train and prepare our future apprentices through the EDT program,” said Dr. Katy Rittle, DLC’s workforce development manager. “It is an investment that we as a company make, and our EDTs see that, and they invest in themselves, as well.”
DLC partnered with the Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC) in 2016 to propel EDT students towards an associate degree through its EDT program. The program offers apprentices a pathway to the lucrative trade of utility linework via hands-on training to develop necessary skills. “The EDT program has existed for over a decade in many forms because the best way to train future lineworkers is certainly through a mentorship/apprenticeship model,” Rittle said.
Jordan Woodhouse, a recent EDT graduate, completed the program and is now a senior operator apprentice at DLC.
“EDT has prepared me for success in the utility industry through rigorous hands-on training and demonstrations,” Woodhouse said.
We sat down with Rittle to learn more about the program and how it continues to help graduates like Woodhouse build careers in the industry.
Why should someone consider applying to the EDT program?
Rittle: It is an incredible opportunity for students to be safely introduced to the lucrative trade of utility linework in a controlled environment, combined with a higher education certification through CCAC, and most importantly, a direct pathway into a lifelong career as a lineworker with DLC.
How competitive is it?
Rittle: Each year, DLC receives nearly 300 applications for the EDT program. We host tryouts that allow applicants to experience climbing a wood pole with supervision by experienced trainers and require students to learn tools of the trade. This three-day tryout culminates in a final climb and tool exam. We see applicants ranging from age 17 to their 40s. We welcome all successful applicants and often find that determination is a greater driving factor than age!
And in 2022-23, you opted to make the program free?
Rittle: Yes. The company looked at potential barriers for applicants to the EDT program — one being cost. While the EDT program is much lower in cost than similar programs throughout the country, we hoped to encourage applicants to apply who may not have otherwise because of the financial burden of entering a full-time training program.
Makes sense. How likely is it that DLC will hire someone who completes the program?
Rittle: Our placement rate of graduates is nearly 98%. The attrition rate is lower than most programs of its kind. It is an investment that we as a company make to guarantee we have the workforce in place that is needed to keep the lights on. Since the first iteration of the partnership with CCAC in 2016, we have hired roughly 115 EDT graduates into apprenticeships with DLC.
What sets the EDT program apart from other similar programs?
Rittle: The camaraderie. An EDT cohort member rarely falls behind their classmates. All of our EDT students excel, and when one falls behind, their classmates pull them up. Our goal at DLC is to train and prepare our future apprentices through the EDT program so that we can grow our workforce.
The energy industry is constantly evolving. How does DLC and CCAC adapt the EDT program accordingly?
Rittle: The electric utility is a highly skilled trade where safety is paramount, so we make safety our No. 1 priority every day. We constantly improve the curriculum to educate future candidates on the benefits of joining the energy industry and the many career paths that follow.
Anyone interested in applying for the EDT program can find links to enrollment, the resume submission process and testing information on DLC’s website.