Training the powerline technicians

Apprentices in the electrical utilities trade never stop learning. Whether they’re climbing poles or installing inline switches, each task is an opportunity to refine a young worker’s knowledge and skills—to help them get the job done more efficiently, effectively, and above all, safely.

Away from the jobsite, many aspiring electrical utilities workers gain significant learning through the Powerline Technician (PLTN) apprenticeship program offered by the Infrastructure Health and Safety Association.

The four-semester (two-year) program is intended to help meet the growing demand for Powerline Technicians in Ontario while supporting the apprenticeship system across the province. It is taught at IHSA’s Skills Development Centre in Mississauga— as well as in Sudbury and Chatham, through IHSA partnerships with Cambrian College and St. Clair College, respectively.

Deeper learning and practical skills

IHSA is one of a select few organizations designated by the Ministry of Labour, Immigration, Training and Skills Development (MLITSD) to provide the skills-based training for all four levels of the Powerline Technician apprenticeship. It’s also one of the only training agents to limit its class sizes to just eight participants, ensuring deeper learning and fairer assessment of skills.

“At every level, IHSA’s instructors were able to give each of us a lot of one-on-one attention,” says Arnold Young, who completed his training with IHSA in 2020. “They gave extra help if you were struggling with a particular skill or concept, without sacrificing the experience of the other students.”

Now a journeyman Powerline Technician with Synergy North, Young credits IHSA’s instructors with helping to reinforce his on-the-job skills, making him a better, safer worker. “Their expertise came through even for the simple things—like workflow, for example. They’d offer their perspective about the most efficient way to safely complete a task, because in the field it’s not always just about what a book tells you. Those little tips and tricks are what I carry with me today,” he says.

Full-time experts

All IHSA PLTN instructors have at least 15 years experience in the electrical utilities industry. Val Ward has more than double that amount. He has also taught hundreds of aspiring Powerline Technicians over his career, which includes the last seven years as a full-time PLTN Training and Apprenticeship Consultant with IHSA.

“Full time being the keyword,” he says. “Powerline Technician training involves a lot of math and science, a lot of theory. Because all IHSA trainers are full-time employees, we’re always thinking about that stuff, and how to teach it in the most accessible way.”

IHSA takes great pride in the expertise of its instructors, who teach not only the PLTN apprenticeship program, but also the association’s Line Crew Ground Support (LCGS) program, a 15-week course focused on training Indigenous youths for entry-level ground support roles in the powerline industry.

“Our trainers’ passion for the trades is evident in their commitment to the students, regardless of the program,” says Alain Leger, IHSA’s Manager, Powerline Apprenticeship and Training. “Whether it’s through the apprenticeship program at our Skills Development Centre or interacting with students around the province, they consistently deliver the fundamentals and create a positive learning environment for everyone.”

Hands-on safety training

Of course, PLTN apprentices must take what they’ve learned in the classroom and put it into practice. At IHSA’s Skills Development Centre in particular, Level 3 and 4 students hone their skills in a confined space simulator, an energized three-phase underground yard, and on energized overhead lines.

“Being able to learn proper techniques for working with energized lines—on actual energized lines—was such an important part of my training,” Young says.

And because that training takes place under the guidance of IHSA experts, safety is always top-of-mind. Ward notes: “We make sure apprentices understand how important their jobs are, but also how important it is to get home safe at the end of the day.”

Learn more about PLTN

IHSA’s four-level Powerline Technician apprenticeship program helps workers gain the theoretical knowledge and practical skills to construct and maintain electrical transmission and distribution lines—emphasizing the most up-to-date tools and techniques for working safely, every day. To find out more about IHSA’s PLTN apprenticeship, call 416-452-5184 or email