NorthWestern Energy Lineman
By: Alana Cunningham
Helena native Chuck Ladd has worked as a lineman for NorthWestern Energy for twenty years and recently transitioned to foreman of the Helena meter shop. Ladd began his career studying Mechanical Engineering at Montana State University until he discovered Montana Power Company’s (now NorthWestern Energy) linemen apprenticeship program that led him to a career as a lineman. After 25 years of working for NorthWestern Energy, Ladd could not ask for a better job experience as a linemen, and in his current role.
A NorthWestern Energy linemen is an individual who constructs and maintains electric overhead and underground power lines. Linemen go through a three-year apprenticeship program where they receive on-the-job training along with traditional classwork equivalent to college studies. This combination of classroom and on-the-job training allows students to make a living while handling their studies. Classwork is directly related to the on-the-job work/training with other linemen, and NorthWestern Energy’s apprenticeship program is certified by the State of Montana.
While college is not required, more and more students are attending pre-apprentice type linemen schools prior to starting an apprenticeship program. This is also an opportunity to find out if this is the type of work they really want to do. “When we are hiring in the Helena area, we are seeing more students who have obtained training from NorthWest Lineman College in Idaho or Montana Tech’s Pre-Apprenticeship Line Program,” said Ladd. “The more training the better because it teaches students the safety needed for the work that they are doing, and NorthWestern Energy’s priority is safety for all employees.”
A typical lineman’s work usually starts at 8 am and ends at 4:30, but the schedule often changes so the hours can be long and varied. NorthWestern Energy’s linemen have a primary duty to deal with emergency type situations. And that can happen anytime.
“You never know when a storm will come through and knock down a tree that lands on a power line, or if a car hits a pole. We have to be
ready to take care of any problem when the power is knocked out at any given moment,” noted Chuck.
After graduating from the three-year apprenticeship, linemen typically make around $80,000 a year in base pay. Ladd noted that
if you are an adventure seeker and not afraid of heights this is a job for you. Ladd emphasized a major perk is that not every day is the same,
you are always on the go, and the great outdoors is your office.
“The job is physically demanding but very rewarding when you are able to spend the majority of your day outside,” said Ladd.
Chuck could not find any major cons of the job itself, except for when you’re working outside in -29 degrees or 100 degrees, the type of weather that Montana experiences every now and then!