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FCC Receives $50,000 CTE Leadership Grant for EDS Program

Pictured from left to right are: EDS alum Tyler Lashbrook; Gerry Kinney, Lab Assistant; EDS students Ronnie Britt, John McCuan, Charles Ross, Trevor Curry, Lucas Tobin, Jonathan Hammack, Asher Hughey, Evan Staat, Jakob Shuck, and Joe Fenton; Ed Patton, Lead Instructor; and Dr. Paul Bruinsma, Dean of Instruction.

Frontier Community College (FCC) in Fairfield recently received a Career and Technical Education (CTE) Leadership Grant in the amount of $50,000.  The 18-month grant has been awarded by the Illinois Community College Board and will be used exclusively for the Electrical Distribution Systems (EDS) Program.

The EDS Program is a one-year certificate that prepares individuals to build, repair, and maintain overhead and underground electrical distribution systems while using safe practices.  The program combines classroom lecture with outdoor training featuring pole climbing, operating a bucket truck, setting poles with a digger truck, constructing cross arms, hanging lines, building transformers, and hurt man rescue.  Many graduates of this program go on to become linemen or tree trimmers.

With the CTE Leadership Grant, focus will be given to incorporating four items into the EDS Program: 1) flagger certification, 2) spray applicator licensure, 3) commercial driving licensure, and 4) a new bucket truck.  Students will also receive CPR, First Aid, and AED certification prior to graduating from the program.  The grant will fund supplies, equipment, and faculty training to implement these changes.  With these program additions, EDS graduates will be more employable and have a competitive edge during the hiring process.

Flaggers are individuals who control the flow of traffic on construction sites.  Flaggers may put out traffic cones and use signs or hand signals to communicate with motorists.  Adding this certification to the program will give students the professional credentials for this occupation if they choose to enter the construction field.

Federal law requires any person who applies or supervises the application of restricted use pesticides (RUPs) be certified in accordance with EPA regulations and state laws.  With the spray applicator licensure, program graduates will be certified to apply RUPs in the State of Illinois.

Currently, EDS students must earn their commercial driver’s license (CDL) upon graduation to operate a bucket truck.  With the CTE Leadership Grant, students will now have the opportunity to obtain their Class A CDL by the time they graduate from Frontier.

Since linemen spend a large majority of the day driving, navigating, or working within a bucket truck, it is important the EDS Program provides students with up-to-date bucket truck training.  The addition of an improved truck to the program will ensure proper training and advance student safety preparation for the workforce.

These four items were incorporated into the grant application after several suggestions from advisory committee members.  FCC hosts annual advisory committee meetings for each of its CTE Programs, and each committee includes local representatives from the program-specific industry.  One area industry leader stated, “If an individual leaves a program with a college certificate and [these new certifications], they can go to a union hall and walk out with a job.  It may not be an apprentice lineman position right off the bat, but it will be a good-paying job that will get their foot in the door.”  Moreover, adding these certifications and licenses will open up additional job opportunities in construction, tree trimming, and pesticide application.

“What I like about the EDS Program is that we are constantly upgrading it to improve the experience for students,” said Gerry Kinney, who serves as a Lab Assistant for the program.  “[The CTE Leadership Grant] is adding more tools to the students’ belts, which will make them better employees and better linemen.”

FCC will have the four program additions in place by Fall 2019, so incoming students will graduate in May 2020 with the new certifications and licensures.

Alum Tyler Lashbrook, who was recently promoted to Head Lineman for the City of Fairfield, believes these additions to the program will provide immediate benefits for students. “Equipping students with a CDL and applicator license will broaden the horizon for those searching for an apprenticeship,” said Lashbrook.  “If it wasn’t for Frontier, I wouldn’t be where I am today.  As a lineman, you have the opportunity to continually climb higher on the endless ladder of this field.”  Lashbrook himself is a veteran of the EDS Program, as he graduated from Frontier Community College in 2011.

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