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A Day in the Life of OPPD Trade Workers
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A Day in the Life of OPPD Trade Workers

The OPPD service area is home to many highly educated members of the workforce. Nebraska has one of the highest labor force participation rates in the country and a generally low workforce turnover. Nebraskan work ethics are strong, and that strength can be felt throughout OPPD’s staff – especially in some of our more demanding trades. If you've ever wondered what it takes to serve in positions like transmission crews, lineworkers, relay specialist, balancing station technicians, read on!

The Trade Game

Several positions at OPPD rely heavily on trade workers. Apprenticeship programs help develop trade workers and prepare them to take their “journeyman” exams. They combine on-the-job training with class work and independent study to build the trade workers of tomorrow.

OPPD uses apprenticeship programs to keep quality trade workers employed, trained and ready to keep the lights on in our service area. OPPD works closely with unions to align apprenticeship programs with industry trends and workforce goals.

There are currently apprentice programs in the following fields:
  • Cable splicer
  • Electrician
  • Instrumentation & control
  • Line technician
  • Machinist
  • Meter technician
  • Steamfitter mechanic
  • Substation electrician
  • System protection
  • Transportation mechanic
  • Peaking station technician

More information, including FAQs and contact information, can be found on OPPD's career page.


Bringing to Light a Day in the Life of…

Transmission Crews

Transmission Crews
The workers on our transmission crews are definitely some of our “powerhouse” employees and require a unique strength to be successful. They work 100+ feet in the air, sometimes during harsh weather conditions. Our transmission crews get to use the utility’s biggest equipment, like the “condor truck” – a bucket truck that reaches 170 feet (or about 15 stories) into the air, and 72 feet from the side of the truck. Transmission line work uses a variety of equipment like bucket trucks, the condor truck, cranes and occasionally helicopters to replace damaged transmission lines, help construct new transmission lines, test facilities and perform preventative maintenance. Work varies from day-to-day and provides constant challenges for employees.

Transmission crew work takes a special type-A personality. The work they perform is highly detail-oriented. But the work they do comes with a strong sense of pride, knowing that what their daily tasks are crucial to keeping OPPD’s power service reliable.

Lineworkers

Lineworker
Lineworkers are essentially the utility first responders for our communities. We rely on them to keep the lights on – and bring them back after storms and outages. Following storms or other incidents that take down power lines, they rush to the scene to help make things right. They even respond to out-of-state disasters like hurricane cleanup. Lineworkers are also responsible for maintaining and repairing OPPD’s power infrastructure out in the field. OPPD lineworkers spend their days outside, working with their hands and climbing poles, and every day brings a variety of work and challenges. They are also constantly building experience and learning new skills. Within their trade, there are many different roles including crew leader, troubleshooter or supervisor, allowing a lifetime of growth and career advancement opportunities. Lineworkers are part of a tightknit community, and they all are involved in training the next generation of apprentices.

This trade, like many others, takes a big commitment. An apprentice must spend 200 hours climbing poles in their first year, and they spend about six years to become a full-fledged journeyman. The work, especially following storms, can be demanding, but rewarding. As a lineworker, your job is focused on serving your community. The role of a lineworker can be challenging, and it’s definitely not for everyone, but it can be an amazing career where you never stop learning.

Relay Specialists

Relay Specialists
Relay specialists aren’t as visible to the public as lineworkers and transmission crews, but they are indispensable at OPPD. Working in OPPD’s Substation & System Protection department, it is their job to build, install, program and maintain the relays that protect substation and power plant equipment. A relay is a device that monitors the flow of electricity through all substation equipment and monitors generators in power plants. A relay can trip when it senses a problem (or fault) in the system, which disconnects power to the affected equipment and ultimately prevents the equipment from suffering major damage. With over 130 substations and approximately 7,000 relays throughout the OPPD service area, this is a big job. Relay specialists work in all 13 counties of the OPPD service area and keep our system healthy and reliable – if there’s power, there are systems that need protection.

Relay specialists regularly inspect and test the relays in all of OPPD’s substations and power plants. The frequency of inspections varies by location. The work is very detailed oriented – using computers to test each relay by simulating a fault. But this job has a lot of variety. Specialists may perform preventive maintenance, analyze and repair relays that were tripped by a fault, or switch out circuits. They also frequently change locations between different substations and power plants. This trade is both challenging and rewarding. After all, relay specialists keep our power flowing.

Balancing Station Technicians

Balancing Station Technician
Balancing stations (or peaking stations) are important pieces in our power puzzle. During the heat of the summer, the amount of power needed in the OPPD service area increases. Balancing stations help OPPD keep the power flowing during peak demand times or can supplement renewable power sources when the weather isn’t cooperating. They consist of gas-driven turbines that generate electricity quickly and can be fired up on short notice if other sources are lacking capacity. Each balancing station includes a group of technicians that are relied on to keep things running.

Balancing station technicians are mechanically minded and able to assess, troubleshoot and fix problems quickly. Some units are older, and things can break down. Our technicians assess the problem, determine if it’s an issue with an individual piece or if there is a bigger system issue. Technicians work in shifts and take turns in different roles around the balancing station, which keeps the job fresh, exciting and different every day. Sometimes they monitor units from a computer bank, sometimes they physically inspect and fix broken equipment, or they might be handling shipments and deliveries. This job is constantly challenging and is not your typical “desk job.” As OPPD pivots toward an increase in renewable energy sources, balancing stations will have an increased role in power production, and the demand for these technicians will continue to grow.

Meter Technicians

Meter Technician
OPPD meters monitor a customer’s power usage and make sure they aren’t paying too much or too little for their electricity. OPPD meter technicians are needed to provide invaluable services to our individual customers. If a storm knocks down power lines attached to a home, a meter technician makes repairs, allowing line crews to focus on the neighborhood circuits. If a customer adds rooftop solar panels, a meter technician helps ensure the meter is set up properly so the customer’s billing will be accurate, and it will be safe for technicians to work on in the future.

Our meter technicians mostly work on their own, so they need to be technical thinkers as well as leaders and self-starters. It is also imperative they have strong communication and people skills, as they don’t just provide maintenance and monitoring on the equipment. Meter technicians also take care of more sensitive jobs for the utility – including delivering final notices on past due payments, shutting off power or restoring power after payments are caught up.

The life of a meter technician is not monotonous. They generally work in two-month rotations in different areas of their trade, including testing meters for accuracy, setting up meters for new commercial buildings and working in rural areas, amongst other tasks. This particular trade at OPPD will be evolving, growing and facing exciting new challenges in the future as advanced metering infrastructure (AMIs) become more widely used.

It takes all types of positions to keep things running at OPPD, but the many trade workers on staff have some of the most dynamic, challenging and important roles in the utility. We value all of the men and women in our different trades, and we look forward to meeting future apprentices and seeing how these trades continue to grow and evolve. If you want to learn more about apprenticeship programs, the trade work available at OPPD or get a closer look at “What it Takes” to pursue these trades, check out the links in our Learn More! box and the other related articles and resources listed below.