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New round of boot camps bring out the best

October 29, 2018 | Jason Kuiper | OPPD employees, T&D
T&D_Streetlight bootcamp_homepage

It’s becoming a common sight around OPPD’s Elkhorn Service Center: A group of potential new hires, stretching and getting ready to showcase their skills in hopes of someday wearing OPPD orange.

On a recent October morning, seven people turned out for a streetlight apprentice boot camp.

Trying out for a career

The applicants are usually a little anxious, even nervous, which is natural. It’s like a tryout for a few open positions.

For OPPD, boot camps are becoming the preferred way for the utility to hire Transmission & Distribution personnel.

T&D_2018 Streetlight bootcamp_wide shot

Usually, OPPD supervisors like Tim Potts are there, too, evaluating the applicants.

At this particular streetlight boot camp, Potts was pacing the area, talking to the “recruits” and sounding like a football coach rallying his team.

“Pretty early here,” Potts, a field supervisor, said in his opening remarks as the sun rose on the horizon. “You guys ready to work? Gonna see steam coming off you pretty soon.”

First-hand look

Jerry Webster, field supervisor at the Elkhorn Center, said they decided to hold their first streetlight boot camp to evaluate talent and see firsthand how they would perform in the field.

T&D_2018 Streetlight bootcamp_fixtureThe applicants completed several rotations through different stations, with evaluations completed after each.

“Most of these applicants came from line school and have worked at local utilities doing internships,” Webster said. “We get to see them climb poles, work with tools, change fixtures and pull service wires. This is the same stuff they are doing in the field and we get to watch them perform.”

Five candidates had interviews after the boot camp and two were hired as apprentices.

“The boot camp allows us to find talented and safe workers to join OPPD,” Webster said.

Looking for the best

Danko Pike, a 21-year veteran of OPPD, now a working line crew leader, helped select the new hires from a spring boot camp. That was the third group hired through the process. Pike said it allows OPPD to hire “the best of the best.”

Another line technician boot camp was held Oct. 26 and 27 at the Elkhorn Service Center. Potts said they expect to hire 10 line techs from the 58 who applied for the openings.

Potts said OPPD will keep moving forward with the boot camps.

“With the boot camps we can see their abilities, their attitude and how they work in a team,” Potts said. “The best thing about running the boot camps is watching the engagement and ownership of the employees that are evaluating the candidates. They are really looking to find the best employee for OPPD.”

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About Jason Kuiper

Jason Kuiper joined OPPD as a communications specialist in 2015. He is a former staff writer and reporter at the Omaha World-Herald, where he covered a wide range of topics but spent the majority of his career covering crime. He is a graduate of the University of Nebraska at Omaha and has also appeared in several true crime documentary shows. In his free time he enjoys cooking, spending time with his wife and three children, and reading crime novels.

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