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New female line mechanic joins AEP Ohio’s Southwest Service Center in Columbus

by on November 20, 2013
AEP Ohio’s newest female line mechanic, Brandi Persch, shares her story of a dream fulfilled. Persch is assigned to the Southwest Service Center in Columbus, Ohio.

(Story by Fay White)

Meet AEP Ohio’s newest female line mechanic: Brandi Persch.

Persch, who is currently enrolled in line school, is assigned to Southwest Service Center in Columbus. This is her story about her journey of fulfilling a dream of becoming a line mechanic:

Persch started as a meter reader for AEP Ohio in 1998. She has always been interested in the electric utility industry. Any time additional training was offered, Persch saw it as an opportunity to progress and would soak it all up and apply it to her job.

However, it wasn’t until the derecho storm last year when she got a chance to go outside of her area to help with restoration that the idea of actually being a line mechanic began to take root.

“It was the first time I got to see line work in progress. I was fascinated by what I saw,” Persch said.

As Persch worked on a restoration detail in Ironton, her mind was filled with questions about line work. She was working with a crew leader who was willing to answer them, and her passion for the career blossomed and started to become a reality.

After returning to her home garage at Seaman Service Center, Persch asked Chris Powell, line mechanic A, if he would teach her to climb poles. He didn’t hesitate but simply stated, “Yes, I will.”

For weeks, Powell took his own personal time to help Persch develop the skill of climbing and doing simple tasks on the pole. Persch was asked by other co-workers how she felt about the work.

“I love it. And I know it’s strange for a woman to want to be line mechanic, but I want to!” Persch exclaimed. “I set my goal to train hard and work every day toward the goal of becoming a candidate for line school.”

Brandi Persch performs a task while on a pole during training at the Groveport Line School. in Groveport, Ohio.

Before being accepted into a line mechanic apprenticeship, employees have to pass a number of steps. According to Lori Kristoff, human resources consultant in Gahanna, the first step in getting qualified is to take the Construction and Skilled Trade (CAST) and Strength tests.

The CAST test helps determine whether the candidate has the aptitude for the duties required in the line mechanic position. The Strength test determines whether the candidate can handle the physical aspects – which can be very demanding — of the job.

Following successful passing of the CAST and Strength tests, the candidate can advance to take the Pre-Assessment.

“We can tell if a candidate has the ability and coordination to effectively perform basic tasks required of the job by how well he or she does on the Pre-Assessment,” said Charles Husky, training specialist at Groveport Line Mechanic Training Center. “Individuals also must be comfortable working high above the ground. This test provides a pretty good idea of how well the candidate will perform while working in a bucket truck.”

The Pre-Assessment involves a number of challenging tasks including the following:

  • Climbing poles at various heights from four feet to 40 feet, with and without fall restraints.
  • Conducting several tasks such as installing crossarms while on the pole at four feet in a fall restraint.
  • Carrying a 25-foot ladder weighing 60 lbs. and materials weighing 20 lbs.
  • Ladder climbing and performing a job task safely while standing on a ladder.
  • Climbing inside a bucket truck and working at the elevated height of 46-to-50 feet.

Upon passing the Pre-Assessment, candidates are then able to apply for an open position and attend line school.

From conversations with her peers, Persch learned the job of a line mechanic is demanding and oftentimes performed in hazardous conditions. Line mechanics can work long hours in extreme conditions and are on call 24 hours a day. They can also be away from home for long periods of time while doing storm restoration work in other states.

Knowing she would need the support of her family if she were to pursue this career, Persch talked to her husband, his parents and her parents, and everyone gave their blessing and support.

Having her family’s encouragement inspired her to continue working toward her goal. In August, her hard work paid off. Persch passed the Pre-Assessment and accepted a line mechanic D position at Southwest Service Center.

Persch still has a long road ahead of her, but says it’s the journey that matters, not the final destination.

Apprentices go through 9,000 hours of on-the-job training and classroom instruction over a four-year period. To graduate, students must pass a written exam at 80 percent and demonstrate mastery of the competencies learned by passing seven field events at 100 percent.

“So far, Persch is exceeding our expectations,” Huskey said. “I have no doubt she’ll graduate and go on to have a very successful career as a line mechanic.”

When asked what advice she would give to other women who might be interested in the line mechanic profession, Persch says, “If you want to be a part of this elite group, you need to make sure it is truly what you want and know why you want it. Then you must work hard, set your goals and go for it.”

From → News From AEP

  1. Congratulations to her! Is she the first female line mechanic? I’m thinking there have been others…

  2. Why is this news?

  3. Awesome, I believe it is a great accomplishment not only for her but others who have an interest in any job. AEP is a very rewarding employer and you can strive for any heights. I started as a Clerk and became a Supervisor in my 41 year career, and that was without a college education. That is hard to do in todays technical world, however, AEP supports you 100%. In house training is always available to those who desire. Good luck to this new mechanic and all others who move on.

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