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In their sights: a life on the lines

November 17, 2022 | Grant Schulte | OPPD employees, T&D
line technician apprentices T&D_Apprentice Week 2022 new Danny Foreman
Danny Foreman, center (back row), has known since he was a kid that he wanted to work for OPPD. Earlier this month, he was hired as a line technician apprentice. Photo by Danielle Beebe-Iske

When he was in second grade, Danny Foreman sketched a picture of himself for a class assignment standing between two power poles. On the front of his bright red shirt, he scrawled the letters, “OPPD.”

T&D_Apprentice Week 2022 drawing
Danny Foreman drew this picture of himself, wearing an OPPD shirt, when he was in second grade.

Even back then, Foreman knew he wanted to work as a line technician. The dream finally came true a few weeks ago, during a road trip with his wife to Kansas City. His phone rang: a job offer, from OPPD.

“I just started screaming in my truck,” Foreman said. The 29-year-old, who grew up in south Omaha, had applied unsuccessfully a few times before. “It was the best weekend, learning that I got the job.”

Foreman was a part of OPPD’s newest class of line technician apprentices, who will spend the next four years loading trucks, cleaning equipment, studying for exams in their free time and gaining the hands-on knowledge they’ll need for a big test at the end to determine whether they can become journeymen in their trade.

The new class joined OPPD’s ranks earlier this month just ahead of National Apprenticeship Week, Nov. 14-20, which is an effort to highlight the value of apprenticeship programs throughout the country. Apprentices are crucial in OPPD’s mission to deliver affordable, reliable and environmentally sensitive energy services.

The class of 21 new hires is the largest batch of line technician apprentices OPPD has ever hired. Officials hired more than initially expected due to the high skill level displayed by the group.

‘Every day is different’

For some apprentices, working at OPPD is a family affair.

Consider A.J. Walter, a newly hired apprentice line technician based in Omaha. His older brother, Andrew Walter, is working through his apprenticeship at OPPD. Their cousin, Brent Foxhoven, is a journeyman and troubleshooter.

A.J. Walter said his brother and cousin inspired him to join OPPD back when he was in high school, when he would watch them compete in line worker rodeos. The 21-year-old earned a utility line degree at Northeast Community College in May, spent five months working for the city of Auburn, then applied to OPPD through its demanding and highly selective line worker boot camp.

line technician apprentices Apprentice class of October 2022
OPPD’s newest group of line technician apprentices gather to be indentured into Local Union No. 763 at Elkhorn Service Center in early November. Photo by Danielle Beebe-Iske

“I’m loving it so far,” he said by phone from a job site in west Omaha. “Every day is different. You’re always learning. I’m glad I’m not just doing the same thing over and over.”

Andrew Walter, an apprentice line technician based in Papillion, said he always wanted a job that would let him work outside. His cousin’s stories about life in a utility seemed appealing, he said, and OPPD had a reputation as a good company.

“It was kind of a no-brainer,” said Walter, 23, who joined OPPD in 2020 after working for the city of Fremont.

Line work as a calling

Foreman’s path to an OPPD line crew took some turns over the years, leading him first to jobs in Iowa and Lincoln.

He joined OPPD a year ago in a position focused on underground lines, but kept his eyes open for opportunities on a line crew. A big part of his interest came from his two uncles: Don Nekola, a field supervisor at OPPD’s Omaha Center, and Russ Kirkland, who works for the Nebraska Public Power District.

Eventually, Foreman said he’d like to become a crew leader.

“I’ve always loved the work,” he said. “I love climbing, and I just have huge respect for the guys who have been doing it for 20 years. When a bad storm hits, they’re the ones everyone looks to.”

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About Grant Schulte

Grant Schulte joined OPPD as a content generalist in 2022. He is a former reporter for The Associated Press, where he covered the Nebraska Legislature, state politics and other news for a global audience. He is a graduate of the University of Iowa and a proud Hawkeye. In his free time he enjoys running, reading, spending time with his wife, and all things aviation.

View all posts by Grant Schulte >

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