As DTE Energy is preparing to ramp up investment efforts on the smart grid, their  Underground Cable Splicer apprenticeship program is set to double its size, moving from six apprentices per class to a dozen. To prepare for this growth, the company’s Training and Development Center (TDC) in Westland is expanding its underground training area to create twelve more simulated manholes.

Simulated manholes allow splicers to learn and practice techniques in a space that is similar to where they’d be working underground – with just a bit more room.

The construction is projected to be completed in time for the 2017 classes of underground splicers.

Transformations also occurred in the outside “yard” where underground apprentices practice pole climbing, and cold splicing and operating for underground residential distribution. Cold splicing is the practice of splicing equipment and cables that have never been energized, and operating refers to the shutting down and isolation of faulted or damaged cables. Updates to the yard included new underground residential distribution equipment, additional 13.2kV circuit changes and installation of new poles.

“I’m really happy with the way that our outside yard has evolved. It could not have happened without the cooperation of both underground and overhead apprentice crews and their leaders,” said Ray Domzalski, supervisor, Field Underground, TDC. “This project emulates the construction process and cooperation typically found between the two groups in the field. The partnership successfully brought the yard project to completion.”

Overhead line has also been increasing their hiring rate, with 20 new journeymen set to join us in October, 20 apprentices hired earlier in the year and 10 more expected to be hired in December.

Underground and overhead lines plan to continue growing its workforce by stabilizing the hiring process and hiring a combination of journeyman and lineman over the next several years.