Electrical Power Distribution class gets attention

October 29, 2013

From host.madison.com: “Green Bay tech students get high — we’re talking five stories — for class photo” — Class picture day for most requires combs, nonclashing outfits and an aptitude for synchronized smiling. Then there’s the electrical power distribution class at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College in Green Bay.

Their picture day required hard hats, reflective vests, harnesses and spiked climbing boots. Leave your acrophobia at home.

Last Tuesday the group of 21 students plus instructor Dan Scheider and an aide shimmied up two telephone poles, installed some extra scaffolding, stood on horizontal bars that connect the poles and waited for the camera to click.

For them, hanging out more than five stories above ground is ho-hum.

“The guys are just fearless,” said Casey Fryda, school spokeswoman. “They were having a ball.”

Not so for the photographer. Taking the photo required Fryda rising to their level in a cherry picker. She had never been in a cherry picker. She was leery despite assurances it was a particularly safe cherry picker.

“I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t cut it in this program,” she said.

But Fryda rose to the challenge and snapped a photo quickly embraced by Facebook. It calls to mind the “Lunch Atop a Skyscraper” photo of eight decades ago, in which workers sat eating lunch on a construction beam high above New York City looking nonchalant despite the altitude.

Fryda said the idea for the photo came to draw attention to the nine-month diploma program, the only one of its kind for utility-line workers in the state and one of a handful nationally.

It started in 1987 and provides nearly guaranteed employment after graduation as long as students are all right heading anywhere in the country — some get jobs close, some far — and don’t mind working in all weather at high altitude.

“You really can’t be afraid of heights and succeed in this industry,” Fryda said. “You either can do it or you can’t. You can’t fudge.”

Different students in the program had photos snapped in August of them tossing a football around while harnessed to telephone poles high above ground. The students reportedly completed a high percentage of passes from the heights, attracting the attention of utility companies and the Minnesota Vikings.

 

 

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