COS training course promotes greener opportunities

New training opportunity at College of the Sequoias opens the door to a career in utility forestry

VISALIA – A new training program at College of the Sequoias will teach students the hands-on work skills they need to pursue a career in a flourishing type of utility maintenance.

As a way to expand on job opportunities in local cities throughout the valley, the College of the Sequoias’ (COS) Training Resource Center announced the launch of a new training opportunity in the field of utility vegetation management (UVM). Through the UVM program, students can take the first step towards a career in maintaining, trimming and removing plants and vegetation around utilities, such as power lines.

“Our main focus is trying to get folks jobs,” April Henderson, workforce development assistant with the Training Resource Center, said. “There’s a lot of job opportunity and job growth in this industry. Our intention is that participants will come to this training and they’ll be able to walk away and go apply for a job within the industry.”

As it stands now, the only position available through the training is for a UVM Pre-Inspector Level 1. The course will develop efficient practices, skills and knowledge in students as it is required for a career as a pre-inspector. The training starts Nov. 28 and ends Dec. 9, with an overall total of 40 hours in classroom time over the two-week course, as well as hands-on learning in the field. 

Henderson said the college will only be offering the level one course in current time, but there are a surplus of positions to be found within the industry.

“After taking this training, your opportunities to move up within the industry just get larger and larger,” Henderson said.

Through the course, a variety of topics will be covered, including general UVM safety, utility risk assessment and hazard tree assessment, contracts and customer communications, reporting of electronic tools and the biology, growth rate, identification and clearance of trees. According to Henderson, the training will have students spending about half of their class time outside.

“We’ve worked closely with getting a contract, or an agreement, with Tulare County Parks [Department],” Henderson said. “They’ll probably be spending a lot of time at Mooney Grove and possibly Cutler Park. Just some of the outlying county parks.”

According to the International Society of Arboriculture, duties for a pre-inspector include pre-inspection and coordination of the work expected to clear power lines. This involves identifying the work needed, recommending any required mitigation and getting the appropriate permission for arborists – the workers cutting the trees – to perform the work they need to. It requires dealing with the public, with individual customers and calls for close coordination with utility and contract employees and crews.

Also according to the International Society of Arboriculture, pre-inspectors can climb the career ladder to various management positions. The career path can lead to more advanced jobs at the respective company in the field, or can lead to a utility arborist position at an electric utility company.

Additionally, the position of a pre-inspector is typically an entry-level position for college graduates, but on many occasions, the positions are usually filled by experienced tree climbers and forepersons; or by supervisors. According to the International Society of Arboriculture, the position requires education and/or training in a multitude of things like back injury prevention, electric hazard awareness, electrical theory and emergency procedures, amongst others.

According to Henderson, there are 20 seats available for the course and 10 people have already signed up. She said the college is working on confirming the next five dates for courses in the coming year. The next cohort will most likely be in February and courses are expected to continue throughout the year until October.

Registration for the course is available now and can be done at the Visalia COS campus or at the website through open enrollment class registration. According to the COS website, a $50 deposit is required to discourage no-show students, drop-outs and ensure responsibility for personal protective equipment, but the funds can be refunded upon successful completion of the training.

Additionally, because the training requires full-time participation, enrollees are encouraged to apply for a $1,200 scholarship through the UVM Scholarship Program. According to COS’ website, the scholarship program offers support to course participants and all approved students upon completion. Students must be registered with the COS system to be eligible for the scholarship.

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