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Westar Opens 'Pole Farm' Training Facility For Technical Students

Nadya Faulx

Westar Energy on Tuesday celebrated the completion of its new training site in Wichita where high school and technical school students can explore careers in the electrical industry.

Pratt Community College students showed off their climbing skills, going up and down practice electrical poles with special boots equipped with steel shanks.

The poles are part of Westar’s new training facility at Wichita Area Technical College, located just south of East High School at Douglas and Grove. WATC and Westar collaborated with Pratt College and Wichita Public Schools to build the "pole farm" as a way to get more students into technical careers.

"We had some conversations at WATC with Westar and they really needed this career path put into Wichita," said Sheree Utash, president of WATC, "to create a more dynamic and flowing workplace for the future."

Utash explained that her school and Pratt began their partnership about two years ago. Students can take general education courses at WATC and technical courses at Pratt, and eventually receive a degree from Pratt Community College.

The pole farm is available for technical trade students to earn their certifications. It can be used to introduce high school students to opportunities in energy.

“They can use this facility to learn not only how to climb a pole but what is electricity about, but what is that job about, what is science about," said Kansas Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, who spoke at the dedication ceremony. "This is an amazing facility that we have right here. It's an unusual one that you don't find everywhere."

Kansas lawmakers passed a bill in 2012 meant to stimulate career and technical education in the state. Colyer said SB 155 sets forward "one of the most advanced programs that we have in the country to help kids learn skills."

According to Kansas DegreeStats, an electrical lineman with a two-year associate's degree from Pratt College can earn more than $99,000 annually after five years on the job.


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