Portland General Electric provides power to more than 1 million people and over 50,000 business customers in 51 cities. To move the power where it needs to go, PGE maintains more than 1,200 miles of transmission lines and 28,000 miles of distribution lines. Maintaining this network requires a well-trained workforce, which is why PGE operates its Sherwood Training Center.
To varying degrees, the center provides apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship training in three specialties. The Sherwood Training Center focuses primarily on training line apprentices to become journeyman linemen who maintain overhead and underground electrical systems. The apprenticeship department also supports training for wire apprentices, who maintain substations, and meter apprentices, who, well, work with meters.
Until 2021, when PGE opened an instructional building on the site, apprentices trained almost entirely outside. Training in the elements is appropriate, as doing so replicates real-world conditions. For that reason, apprentices still spend a great deal of time learning outside. But the new building, though, provides space for classroom and online learning, which accounts for a substantial share of apprenticeship training. The line apprenticeship is a 3 ½ year program that requires the completion of 7,000 hours of on-the-job training as well as 144 hours per year of classroom instruction.
The outside component of the facility features the essential infrastructure needed for apprentice training, including poles, lines, transformers, and the like. Its flexible configuration allows instructors to stage real-life scenarios for apprentices to solve. Upon their arrival at the center, for example, apprentices might be confronted by toppled poles, downed lines and transformers or complicated tree troubles.
In addition to its work at the Sherwood facility, PGE provides training at Clackamas Community College in Wilsonville, where wire and meter apprentices acquire in-depth training. PGE currently has 25 line apprentices, 21 pre-apprentices, six wire apprentices and two meter apprentices.