Kerry Urbaniak is the lead electronics instructor for the Power Utility Technician program at Ecotech Institute. Before teaching, Kerry's work experience spanned across several areas. He first got started working in electronics in the U.S. Army, where he worked in satellite communications. After that, he worked on aircraft instruments in Florida for a few years before becoming an instructor.
With 35 years of teaching under his belt, Kerry knows a thing or two about what it takes to become a power utility technician through his connections with employers and companies within the industry. In this Q&A, Kerry outlines what to expect working in power utility, the skills and training job seekers need, industry trends, and more.
What does the job of a power utility technician generally entail?
It definitely varies. Generally speaking, you can break the types of jobs out into four groups: power plant technicians, distribution linemen, transmission linemen, and sub station technicians. If you're working in a power plant with generating equipment, it ranges from working with electricity to working with machines and riggings. Out in the field, you have linemen. Job activities depend on what types of lines you are working on. For example, if you're a [distribution lineman], if there are breaks, you replace them; when the power goes down in a neighborhood, you help to get it back up and running. [Transmission] linemen work on high voltage lines, and that can sometimes involve literally getting into a helicopter and climbing over on a ladder to reach a line – you definitely can't be afraid of heights. The other main job position for power utility technicians is working at a sub station. Those are where power lines come in, and are fed to neighborhoods from there.
What traits, skills make for a good candidate in this field?
You need to be able to assess things and make proper decisions. You're working with very high power there. So, that's the most important thing, being able to assess the situation to make you and everyone else safe. Beyond that, you generally have to be self-motivated and able to think on your own.
Why is it important to seek out the right training in order to work in this field?
In addition to having the knowledge and electrical background, you also have to learn how to be trained. Entry-level workers typically start out as an apprentice, where they would be working with other people to learn how to do the job. A lot of companies also have their own entrance exams, or require additional certifications.
What are some of the current trends in power utility technology?
The big thing going on in the power industry is that most of the older people [in the industry] are getting ready to retire. With so much of the workforce retiring, that's what is opening up the positions for graduates. There is going to be a significant number of hiring over the next five years.
What advice would you give to someone who was considering going into power utility technology?
If you're interested in becoming a technician, before you make the decision to go to school, you should research that industry and find out whether or not you really want to do what is involved with that job.
Download our free career guide, "The Complete eBook to Starting Your Career as a Power Utility Technician", to learn more about getting a job in power utility.