Western Nebraska Community College officially opened its Powerline & Indoor Training Facility with a ribbon cutting ceremony Wednesday in Alliance.
“The Powerline Construction & Maintenance Technology program represents one of our highest priorities,” said WNCC President Dr. Todd Holcomb. “It’s a three-H program, which means it is a high-skilled, high-demand, high-wage job. We know the baby boomers are retiring and this program is helping meet the needs of our community and region.”
The new indoor facility, complete with dirt flooring and 50-foot tall ceilings, will give the Powerline Construction & Maintenance Technology program students the opportunity to train indoors during inclement weather.
The program was added to the Alliance Campus in 2006 behind the efforts of community businesses and officials. During the process, an advisory committee was formed to help WNCC best serve the students and regional industry partners.
Over the last 12 years, not only has WNCC’s Powerline Construction & Maintenance Technology program provided area students another post-high school option, it’s continued to be a syringe for the region’s economy by supplying the industry a trained workforce.
“All of us in the industry are grateful for what WNCC has done and what the powerline program means to us,” said Ryan Reiber, general manager of Panhandle Rural Electric Membership Association (PREMA) in Alliance. Reiber has also been a longtime supporter and advisory committee member for the program. “Now we’re here to celebrate this beautiful facility.”
Program alum Chris Gasseling was also on-hand to speak at the ribbon cutting Wednesday. Gasseling, a 2015 alum of the program, earned a job in North Platte immediately following graduation. He has since moved back to Alliance, but spoke highly about the instruction and guidance he received at WNCC.
“(WNCC Powerline Instructor Edward Salazar) is going to teach you everything you need to know,” Gasseling said. “He’s going to teach you how to climb, how to do the work, but more importantly he’s going to teach you how to carry yourself as a linemen and how to act out in the field. I think Alliance is very blessed to have this facility here and have a trade school here.”
WNCC’s powerline program has been a model of success in recent years, consistently attracting a large number of area students. Already, nearly 60 prospective students have expressed interest in joining the program next year, Salazar said.
Later in the afternoon Wednesday, the powerline program hosted an open house for those prospective students from around the area. In addition to touring the new indoor facility, the prospective students were able to try on powerline gear, climb a pole, and learn about the industry’s outlook from Nebraska Public Power District Superintendent Dennis Wademan.
“I’m excited about the growth,” Salazar said. “We’re really excited to be able to provide a service to our community.”
The indoor facility was completed in about four months and was sourced entirely from area businesses. K.L. Wood in Alliance was the general contractor on the project, and Baker & Associates in Scottsbluff provided design work. Steel for the project was sourced by B & C Steel in Gering, and erected by Dead On Steel Erectors out of Alliance. Triangle Electric and Z & S Sheet Metal, both in Alliance, also contributed to the project.
Funds for the project were raised during the WNCC Foundation’s comprehensive campaign, which focused on contributing toward workforce success initiatives.
“This program is a combination of private entities and public entities coming together to create an economic opportunity for students,” Holcomb said. “There is no other school or program like this for 250 miles and it’s just a fabulous program