20 Jul PLS Employee Relates Experiences on “The Road Less Traveled” to the American Dream to Energy Industry Executives from Across the U.S.
The average 2016 college graduate just left the ivy-covered walls of an institution of higher learning owing more than $31,000, joining the ranks of 43 million Americans with nearly $1.43 trillion in combined student loan debt.
Five years ago, Cameron “Noodle” Meyer was right on track to becoming part of these alarming statistics. An 18-year-old college freshman pursuing a degree in construction management, he worked full-time at a California lumber yard for $8 per hour, clearing $220 per week to pay for his community college classes.
Today, at age 23, Meyer is living the dream. Recently promoted, he supervises a crew, works hands-on outdoors — everything that attracted him to construction management in the first place — and brings home more than $1,000 per week, he says.
So how much does Meyer owe in student loans?
Not one red cent, he told attendees at a recent meeting in Arlington, Texas, of the nationwide ApprenticeshipUSA Energy Sector of Excellence in Apprenticeship (SEA), a group formed in 2015 the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) at the behest of President Obama to promote registered apprenticeship programs in American businesses.
Meyer’s lack of debt is due to his opting not to pursue that bachelor’s degree in construction management after all. Instead, he took the advice of a family friend who worked as a lineman with Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) to consider the trades and the significant opportunity presented in that arena by the gap in skilled workers available to replace retiring baby boomers.
“I did the research and weighed my options,” Meyer said. “I could keep struggling, always exhausted by full-time work and school, barely getting by, having to borrow money, or I could take another route to get where I wanted to be.”
Meyer ultimately chose the other route, enrolling in the 15-week electrical lineman program at Northwest Lineman College (NLC), whose website advertises a program tuition of $12,150, a 79% placement rate and an average lineman salary of $65,930 per year.
“It seemed like a no-brainer,” Meyer told Energy SEA members from across the U.S., including representatives from large utility companies such as American Electric Power and Excel Energy.
Meyer paid his own tuition to NLC, but immediately upon graduation in 2012, was hired by Power Line Services (PLS), a PLH Group Company, and entered PLH’s just-launched four-year lineman apprenticeship program. His NLC certification gave him a full year’s credit in the program, allowing him to finish the combination of classroom instruction at the NLC campus in Denton, Texas, and on-the-job training with PLS to earn journeyman certification in three years.
“My employer covered the full cost of my apprenticeship and paid me to work for them while I completed the program,” Meyer said. “Plus, I didn’t have to look for a job when I was done, like I would have coming out of college.”
Had Meyer, recently promoted to foreman at PLS, wished to look for a job, he had plenty of opportunity at the SEA meeting. One attendee made him an employment offer while he was relating his apprenticeship experience at the meeting, according to Matt Compher, PLH Group Senior Vice President of Safety, Health and Environmental, who developed the PLH apprenticeship program, holds a leadership role in the ApprenticeshipUSA Energy SEA and arranged for Meyer to speak to the group as an apprenticeship success story. Two more attendees waited until he finished his presentation to recruit him, “but I’m happy right where I am at PLS,” Meyer added.
“Noodle represented PLS and the PLH Group as a whole very well and was a huge hit with the entire Energy SEA audience,” Compher said. “We’re extremely proud of him and the example he sets of how apprenticeship can change people’s lives and help American businesses develop and retain a highly skilled workforce.”
To learn more about the ApprenticeshipUSA initiative, visit www.dol.gov/apprenticeship.