Two graduates began their co-op careers as interns; four additional staff members receive advanced technical training certifications
By Sidni Carruthers
Fifteen apprentice lineworker graduates at Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative are ready to join dozens of other journeyman lineworkers who keep electricity flowing to co-op members across its 3,800-square-mile service area.
Of the 15, two began as lineworker interns at Bluebonnet in 2019, completing a six-month training program before beginning years of apprentice training.
Another four Bluebonnet employees recently completed specialized training programs: one in advanced electric meter work, one in substation operations and two in control center operations.
Each program has different study, testing, training and work requirements. The lineworker apprentice program at Bluebonnet requires 8,000 hours of on-the-job learning, which includes 672 hours of technical instruction — typically a four-year commitment. The recent apprentice graduates have obtained U.S. Department of Labor certification as lineworkers.
“I grew up in the Brenham area with Bluebonnet folks all around. When the apprenticeship opened up and I had an opportunity to work here, I took the chance,” said Brenham-based journeyman Ryan Quinton, one of the 15 graduates. “There is always something to learn out here, but I have a good crew that makes sure we are safe and can serve Bluebonnet’s members.”
He added that the best parts of his job are being able to work outside and do something meaningful.
Many of the apprentice graduates brought knowledge and skills from previous training and other jobs.
“Before coming to work at Bluebonnet, I worked as a heavy-machine operator,” said Matt Mole, now a Bluebonnet journeyman working in Maxwell. “That time taught me the importance of safety, paying attention to what is happening around you and the importance of teamwork. The best part about working at Bluebonnet is the camaraderie that I feel with everyone.”
Including this year’s group, 139 Bluebonnet lineworker apprentices have graduated from the program since it began in 2004.
During their hundreds of hours of classroom instruction and thousands of hours of on-the-job training, apprentices focus on learning how to build overhead and underground power lines, restore power, repair and replace equipment and connect meters.
Garrett Gutierrez, field superintendent in Bastrop, is proud of the program and the quality of service it allows Bluebonnet to provide.
“Most of the guys who go through our program are from around the Bluebonnet service area and are Bluebonnet members, too,” Gutierrez said. “They take pride in their work, and that shows when they are working. It is great to see them be able to work in their communities.”
The most recent Bluebonnet apprentice graduates, in addition to Quinton and Mole, are Nick Baker, Joseph Carrillo, Caleb Clay, James Holder, Casey Jacobs, Matt Jones, Stephen LeFrance, Parker Redwine, Bubba Townsend, Garett Urban, Rhett Vellier, Bryan Woods and John Zamora. Clay and Baker, both from Bastrop, began their Bluebonnet careers as lineworker interns in 2019.
The intern program, which started in 2018, provides six months of technical instruction in line work. To advance into the apprentice program, participants must also obtain a power-pole climbing certification and a commercial driver’s license.
“I was interested in the internship program because I knew Bluebonnet was a great place to work, and there is always a need for lineworkers,” said Baker, who began the program after graduating from Bastrop High School. “Plus I already knew a few guys that were in the apprenticeship program. Having started as an intern and seeing what all it took to be a lineman at Bluebonnet really solidified that this is what I wanted to do.”
The internship program aims to hire candidates who live in the Bluebonnet region.
“We concentrate a lot on safety with these young guys,” said Nick Barta, Bluebonnet safety and training supervisor. “Throughout the cooperative we focus on safety, but it is essential that when the interns start, they understand the importance of safety and how to think about it in all of their work.”
Four Bluebonnet employees also received certifications for specialized work.
Anthony Garcia, a power quality and metering technician, received training in troubleshooting meter problems and formulas for reading meters. John Russell, a substation technician, completed an apprenticeship to learn skills required to maintain and repair substation equipment. Two control center operators, Bryn Janca and Hunter Adamek, completed a 10-month program and proficiency exam to receive control center operator certifications.
Learn more about Bluebonnet’s intern and apprenticeship programs at the cooperative, at bluebonnet.coop/careers.