NPPD line techs showcase skills, place third at industry rodeo

April 12, 2016

Columbus, NE – There are no barrels or bulls, and instead of chaps and cowboy boots, contestants wear hooks, harnesses, and hard hats. But for the Nebraska Public Power District’s (NPPD), the 15th annual American Public Power Association Lineworker’s Rodeo was a chance to  test the utility’s journeymen and apprentices against their peers and earn a third place finish.

Held April 1-2 in Minneapolis, MN, the rodeo was the largest in the event’s history, drawing 130 apprentice line technicians and 63 teams representing public power utilities throughout the U.S. At the rodeo, lineworkers compete for professional recognition in various events, attend training classes and practice essential skills in a safe environment.

Members of NPPD’s journeymen team were Brian Caba (Plattsmouth), Jared Rojewski (Aurora), Bryce Stoltenberg (Scottsbluff), and Lee Conroy (Ainsworth). Apprentice team members were Tyler Brown (Loup City) and Taylor Sudbeck (Norfolk).  Todd Keller (Bassett) and Trevor Roth (York) judged two of the contests.

“Having guys from different departments and parts of the state is part of our success,” said Caba. “The work is the same but everyone has their own way of doing things. We take ideas and work practices from each and blend it all into one plan. And then work that plan.”

The team practiced together only nine days over the course of a few months before competing against teams who work together every day and some who go to the rodeo every year. Yet, NPPD’s team practice paid off. The journeyman team earned a third place trophy in the jumper replacement competition and took home a sixth place overall, missing fifth place, by 21 seconds.  NPPD’s apprentices placed eighth and 16th overall.

According to Roth, the journeyman jumper replacement event tests communications between the climbers and the groundmen. Effective communications allow them to compete the job in a safer and shorter duration. The event also tests such skillsets as climbing, decision making and trust among crew members to complete the task. Other rodeo events included hurtman rescue, pole top pin insulator change out, fused cutout relocation, transformer change out, crossarm change out, and an obstacle course.

In addition to showcasing the pride they have in their work, team members gain personally and professionally from their participation.

“Participating in the rodeo gives me the opportunity to learn from other lineman,” said Conroy.  “If I see someone doing something successfully or using a piece of equipment that works well, I can share that with my colleagues at NPPD.  It also gives me the opportunity to network with my colleagues from across the state to discuss what their work groups are doing to make NPPD successful.”

Nebraska’s public power utilities will hold their own rodeo on Aug. 27, 2016, at the Nebraska State Fair.

To view a video about APPA’s 2016 Lineworker’s Rodeo, visit: http://www.publicpower.org/Events/interiorsidebar.cfm?ItemNumber=45591&navItemNumber=41054

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