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Training sparks utility careers

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A local company is training people for high-paying jobs with electric utilities.

By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

A local firm, TCR Management Group, recently signed a contract with the Virginia Community College System to provide training classes for utility line groundsman.
TCR Management’s Eddie Reavis began providing the training through Wytheville Community College two years ago, and has now expanded those vocational offerings to all 23 institutions in the Virginia Community College System, according to Greg Hampton, the company’s business development officer.

A groundsman, an assistant to a utility lineman for the electricity grid, typically makes from $25,000 to $37,000, according to information provided by TCR.
Since its inception, TCR has trained 124 people through the end of 2011 and placed 84 percent of those in jobs. Starting wages for a groundsman begin at $12 per hour and go up from there.
“We’re pretty proud of that,” Hampton said. “We’ve put a lot of people that need work to work.”
It’s not unusual to hear in news reports about the excitement people feel when a new company comes into a locality and promises to create 150 or so jobs over a prolonged period. Reavis noted that his company has done just that in a little more than two years but without all the fanfare.
Utility companies seem fairly immune to the recession because the need for electricity remains steady. TCR officials say that means hiring will remain constant in this field.
One trainee who went through TCR’s 128-hour course over 16 days told Reavis that he went from earning $9,000 working part-time locally to $37,000 after being hired full-time on utilities.
Reavis has served as a foreman/journeyman lineman — a few steps up the career ladder from groundsman  \ for Davis H. Elliott for more than 20 years, Hampton noted. “Having been in the business for that amount of time, he saw a need for this kind of training within the industry.”
So far, TCR Management has provided the training at 10 community colleges around the state.
Its next class in Galax is scheduled for July 9–31 at the Crossroads Institute.
Other classes have been planned for Southwest Virginia Community College in Richlands for August, Dabney Lancaster in Clifton Forge in September, Lord Fairfax in Middletown for October and Southside Community College in Clarksville.
Most students receive tuition assistance from various workforce training programs, Hampton said. Agencies like People Inc. and On Ramp, or even utility companies, have provided financial assistance in the past.
Students like the short turnaround time and ability to go right to work after the training, Hampton said.
Another avenue that TCR Management will pursue is working through the Veterans Administration to train military service members looking to return to the private sector.
“We feel like there’s a lot of potential there with the new G.I. Bill and the veterans coming home” from Iraq and Afghanistan, Hampton said.
Many times, trainees find jobs in the region with Davis H. Elliott and Pike Electric.
TCR Management is in the process of trying to expand its training program to places like Florida and Texas, Reavis said.

For more information or to register for the training coming up in July, call Hampton at (276) 237-9049 or e-mail tcrmarketing@embarqmail.com.