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Just Like the Real Thing: Training the Next Generation of Lineworkers

The Missouri Valley JATC offers comprehensive training at its new state-of-the-art facility.

“Many people say that a lot of [lineworker] rules are written in blood, and there is literal truth to that. Safety is our value. We don’t have any competing priorities over safety. It’s not number one. It’s on a list of one.”

That’s a quote from Tim Vassios, a lead instructor at the Missouri Valley Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee (JATC). Both Vassios and his organization – with the support of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the National Electrical Contractors Association – are working diligently to train the next generation of lineworkers in the Upper Midwest region of the United States.

Recently, Incident Prevention magazine staff members had the opportunity to visit Vassios at the Missouri Valley JATC’s brand new, state-of-the-art facility in Indianola, Iowa, to see how prospective future lineworkers are being trained to do the job safely. The venue offers energized technical training facilities, classroom education and a comprehensive online learning experience.

The curriculum also emphasizes both technical and soft skills – because both are needed to do the job well.

“In addition to the technical skill, we’re giving them the soft skill opportunities to learn how to think through situations, control their emotions, understand what they’re being asked to do and then really have the courage to say no,” Vassios said. “And that’s not an easy task, especially when you’re a learner for years, and the [more experienced] folks around you seemingly don’t know better or are asking you to violate [safety protocols].

“That’s when we’re asking them to step up as a leader and say, ‘No, I’m not doing that. I’m not letting you do that.’”

To watch the full interview with Vassios and find out more about Missouri Valley JATC’s training facility, visit

Apprentices receive climber training at the facility. In addition to learning fundamental climbing techniques, they are also taught pole-top and bucket-truck rescue.
Observing work in the field is another skill apprentices are trained to develop
The Missouri Valley JATC facility offers training scenarios that feature high-voltage energized lines and equipment. In this room, the observation window was installed using special blast-proof glass. A hands-on, energized environment such as this one provides simulations of real-world situations, giving apprentices the opportunity to learn in a space where hazards can be safely controlled.
“Everything we’ve built [in our new facility] – from the moment an apprentice drives down the street and pulls up to our building – is meant to humble them a little bit,” Vassios said. “From the size and the scope of the structure to what the materials are made out of, it’s designed to put them in that mindset that this is for real. And that’s exactly how we teach and train. Even though we may be simulating something, we teach it as if it’s the real deal.”
An apprentice works on applying cover-up. Apprentices at the facility undergo training through a combination of technical, classroom and online learning.
“Safety is important to us because, quite frankly, nobody wants to go to a funeral,” Vassios said. “Nobody wants to go to visit somebody in a burn unit. And the unfortunate reality is that it is still happening in our industry.”

To watch the full interview with Vassios and find out more about Missouri Valley JATC’s training facility, visit

Leadership Development, Featured