February 2019 Vol. 74 No. 2


Quanta Acquires Training College to Address Worker Shortages, Training

By Michael Reed | Contributing Editor

In its effort to head off a growing March shortage of skilled workers in the natural gas distribution and other energy sectors, Quanta Services, which employees about 41,000 people, has taken the unusual step of acquiring Northwest Lineman College (NLC).

Quanta trainees take a break during a course.

The company recently announced the acquisition of the accredited college, which specializes in training for the electric power industry, with the intention of helping to develop natural gas distribution and communications curriculum, as well.

“Our end markets are experiencing historic levels of capital and operating investments, which we believe will continue for the foreseeable future,” Quanta President and CEO Duke Austin said. “As a result, demand for skilled labor is high and industry resources are becoming increasingly strained.”

Based in Boise, Idaho, NLC was founded in 1993 and has additional campuses in Oroville, Calif., Edgewood, Fla. and Denton, Texas.

“We believe NLC’s educational models can be applied to all of Quanta’s service lines, which would facilitate the development of additional curricula over time,” Austin said, adding NLC’s existing management team has remained in place since the acquisition.

First class

The five-week gas distribution training is currently a business- to-business program meaning the first graduating class was made up of employees of Quanta and its subsidiary companies. The program graduated its first class on Oct. 10.

The first gas distribution training class completes its coursework.

Bill Bosch, president of the NLC Florida campus, said that Tin the third-quarter of 2019 the gas distribution classes will be offered to the public, consisting of the same classroom, lab time and field work curriculum as the program offered to the first graduating class.

“It’s about 50 percent classroom work,” Bosch said. ““Everything they learn in the classroom, they do as applications in the lab. Then students take those applications into real-life situations in our training yard.”

Upon successful completion of the program, graduates receive a certificate and become “highly desirable” gas distribution employees, according to Bosch, who said companies have reported the program should save them 10 months on field training time.

“These graduates are productive and safe on day one in the field,” said Matt Compher, vice president of Safety, Health, Environmental and Quality.

That equates to better efficiency, financial savings and an overall safer workplace. It also allows certificate of completion holders to perform considerably more functions in the field than other new employees.

“They are qualified to do different fusion exercises, safe trenching procedures and are familiar with internal gas appliances and operations of the crews,” Bosch said. “They become a highly efficient part of the crew on Day 1 after they graduate.”

He said NLC will begin offering the program at the Texas campus in April, and that the college has a strategic plan underway to introduce the curriculum at the California and Idaho campuses.


In order to stay in tune with changes in the gas industry, NLC enlisted a program advisory committee, similar to the one used with its electrical program, which devised the initial course of study. These “subject matter experts,” according to Bosch, allowed the college to start with “the latest procedures and safe work practices” and adapt needed changes as the industry evolves.

“Like any other industry this one will change, so our subject matter experts will guide us to where we need to take the program,” he said. “We will stay in tune with the industry and make sure our curriculum stays right on the cutting edge.”

As baby boomer retirements increase not just in the gas industry but across most other trades as well, Quanta and NLC have recognized the need to boost the ranks of qualified job applicants.

NLC will begin some publicity efforts soon to get word out that there are opportunities in the gas trade, and companies like Quanta and local distribution companies have their own marketing efforts, letting their geographical regions know about the opportunities.

“Really the trade itself gets the word out about opportunities,” Bosch said. “Obviously, we (NLC) will not be able to get enough people into the gas program to satisfy what the nation needs.”

The latest graduates, who will be working for Quanta companies, also will go through a two-week training on the local campus in telecommunications – a rapidly growing field – in order to be better prepared for their work with Quanta.

NLC is now training Quanta employees to enhance their skills.

The company is considering sending college trainers to be part of a rapid response team to determine the cause of accidents and to offer trainings at different locations around the United States.

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