Powerline technicians construct, maintain and repair overhead and underground electrical power transmission and distribution systems.
In general, powerline technicians:
- erect and maintain steel, wood or concrete poles, towers and guy wires
- install, maintain and repair overhead and underground power lines and cables, insulators, conductors, lightning arrestors, switches, transformers, street lighting and other associated equipment
- splice, solder and insulate conductors and related wiring to connect power distribution and transmission networks
When there is a power disturbance, failure, or storm damage, powerline technicians locate the source of the problem, and replace or repair defective power lines and accessories. They use wiring diagrams, voltage indicating devices, and other electrical-testing instruments to identify defective automatic sectionalizing devices, circuit breakers, fuses, voltage regulators, transformers, switches, relays, or wiring. The power lines may be de-energized and grounded, or may remain energized. Live-line maintenance techniques are used on energized power lines. The hazards of working with energized power lines are reduced by use of special equipment and training with safe work practices and procedures.
For more information regarding tasks and activities, please review the Trade Regulation.
Powerline technicians work outdoors at various work sites so travelling is often part of the work day. The work may be strenuous and requires frequent heavy lifting, carrying, and reaching. Getting to power lines requires climbing poles or towers, working from a bucket attached to an aerial lift boom, and entering manholes and underground vaults. Shift work may be required. Although a 40-hour work week is normal, in emergencies linemen may be called upon at any hour and in any weather.
The work is most rewarding for those who enjoy working outdoors in all weather conditions and developing specialized skills at varied and challenging tasks.
To be successful in the trade, powerline technicians must have:
- strength, stamina and the use of proper lifting techniques required to work with equipment weighing in excess of 25 kilogramss
- good physical coordination and manual dexterity
- mechanical ability
- good hearing and colour vision
- the ability to work at heights and in varying extreme climates
- the ability to work as a member of a team and adapt to changing tasks and locations.
Powerline technicians are employed by utility companies and their contractors. In some companies, powerline technicians must be union members.
Journeyperson wage rates vary, but generally range from $35 to $50 an hour plus benefits.
Experienced powerline technicians may advance to foreman and line supervisor positions.
To work as a powerline technician in Alberta, a person must:
- be a registered apprentice, an Alberta-certified journeyperson, hold a valid recognized credential , OR
- work for an employer who is satisfied that the worker has the skills and knowledge expected of a certified journeyperson, OR
- be self-employed.
Individuals possessing a valid recognized credential in Alberta are eligible to receive a Blue Seal business credential after completing the necessary requirements.
The term of apprenticeship for a powerline technician is 4 years (four 12-month periods) including a minimum of 1525 hours of on-the-job training and 7 weeks of technical training in each of the first 3 years, and a minimum of 1800 hours of on-the-job training in the fourth year.
- An applicant who previously completed courses of study or work experience related to the powerline technician trade or holds a related journeyperson certificate and has the employer's recommendation, may qualify for credit that could reduce the term of apprenticeship. Inquiries about credit for previously completed courses of study or work experience can be directed to an apprenticeship representative toll-free at 1-800-248-4823.
- A person who has previous training or work experience in the trade and wants to determine their level of skill and knowledge for entry or advanced standing in an apprenticeship program may complete the online Prior Learning Assessment Application. For more information, see the online Prior Learning Assessment Guide.
- A high school student can become an apprentice and gain credits toward apprenticeship training and a high school diploma at the same time under the Registered Apprenticeship Program (RAP).
To learn the skills required of a powerline technician in Alberta and be issued an Alberta Journeyman Certificate, a person must:
- satisfy the entrance requirements or pass the entrance exam (see Entrance Level Competencies, Exam Counselling Sheet, Entrance Exam Study Guide, and Entrance Exam Support Materials List)
- find a suitable employer who is willing to hire and train an apprentice
Most employers prefer to hire high school graduates and may select apprentices from among their current employees.
For holders of an existing trade certificate, it can serve as your entrance requirement equivalency when registering in an additional trade.
- complete the online Apprenticeship Application and Contract
- pay the non-refundable application fee as part of the application process
- complete the required on-the-job training
- during on-the-job training, apprentice powerline technicians earn at least 50 percent of the journeyperson wage rate in their place of employment in the first year, 60 percent in the second, 67.5 percent in the third, and 75 percent in the fourth year.
- complete all program requirements as identified in the course outline
- enroll in technical training
- select an educational institution that offers training for Powerline Technician apprentices, and a time to attend training
- determine requirements for enrolling at the selected institution, and forward completed enrolment form to the selected institution
- review books and materials required for training
- successfully complete all required exams
Apprentices may attempt the Interprovincial Exam in the final period of their apprenticeship training and, if successful, be granted a Red Seal.
When apprentices attend technical training, they are required to pay the applicable tuition fee and purchase course supplies.
Student loans, grants, scholarships and other financial assistance may be available. For more information see Financial Assistance, visit an Apprenticeship and Industry Training office or call toll-free to 1-800-248-4823.
A powerline technician who holds a valid trade certificate from Alberta or from another Canadian province or territory may apply to write the Interprovincial Exam and, if successful, be granted a Red Seal under the Interprovincial Standards Red Seal Program. The Red Seal is recognized throughout most of Canada.
For a Qualification Certificate based on a recognized credential or work experience in order to prepare for the exam(s) please refer to the Exam Counselling Sheets and review available resource materials.
Time spent on supervisory or foreman duties, counter work, heading the tool crib, or on training course is NOT counted as 'hands-on' work experience.
A person who holds a valid recognized credential does not require an Alberta equivalency document to work in the trade in Alberta.
However, some employers may require Alberta documentation as proof that the holder is allowed to work in the trade or that the holder's credential is recognized.
More information regarding the Equivalency Program can be found here.