Nov 25, 2020 | Featured , Workforce Development

Columbia State Celebrates First Pre-Apprentice Lineworker Cohort with Mini Rodeo

McConnel climbs a pole
Colby McConnell climbs a pole during the mini rodeo.

The Columbia State Community College Office of Workforce and Continuing Education recently hosted their first Pre-Apprentice Lineworker Academy  Mini Rodeo that allowed students to demonstrate the skills they learned during the course of the 7-week program.

“I am very proud of our first cohort,” said Melody Murphy, Columbia State Workforce and Continuing Education operations manager. “They have been training for a very valuable career that is in high demand in our region.”

Upon completion of the program, the students received a Tennessee Valley Public Power Association climbing certification, first aid and CPR certifications, 10-hour safety card and flagging certification. In addition, the students are prepared to sit for a commercial driver’s license.

“As a lineman myself, it is amazing to me the progress these guys have made in the few weeks they have been doing this,” said Kim Culpepper, TVPPA director of education and training. “Any company that can get these guys will be very well satisfied with the quality of linemen that Columbia State is putting out.”

During the rodeo, students competed in different activities including an 80-foot pole climb, bell change and switch change. 

In the 80-foot pole climb, Hunter Clanton of Spring Hill came in first place, Parker Riggs of Summertown came in second place and Colby McConnell of Mt. Pleasant came in third place. In the overall rodeo, Riggs came in first place, McConnell came in second place and Clanton came in third place. 

In addition to his performance in the rodeo, Clanton was presented with the Outstanding Student Award.

Hunter Clanton demonstrates a switch change during the mini rodeo.

“I had a really good experience in this program,” Clanton said. “My instructors pushed me to be better every day and I learned more in seven weeks than I have in the past five years. It’s a tough program, but I absolutely recommend it to people considering linework.”

Clanton decided to enter the program after his business was impacted by the coronavirus.

“I had always considered linework, and then my business was ruined by COVID,” he said. “When I found out about this program, it just seemed like it was destiny.”

The Pre-Apprentice Lineworker Program is a result of communities from across Middle Tennessee coming together to fill a need in the workforce.

“Several utilities companies helped us make this program a reality,” Murphy said. “We are thankful for our partners that contributed to the startup and successful completion of our first cohort.”

Local power companies incuding Columbia Power and Water Systems, Duck River Utilities, GRESCO Utility Supply, Lawrenceburg Utilities, Lewisburg Electric System, Meriwether Lewis Electric, Mt. Pleasant Power System, Nashville Electric Service, Smithville Electric and TVPPA provided donations to help start the program.

For more information about the program, or to register for the spring Lineworker session, please visit 

Riggs on a utility pole
Parker Riggs demonstrates a switch change during the mini rodeo.