Empowering Communities

Technical program leads to life-changing careers for two students

January 18, 2019

For more than a decade, a program co-created by a local community college and power company has provided much more than training: It’s helped transform the lives of people in the community through sustainable careers.

The Overhead Electrical Line Workers (OELW) program at the Dawson Technical Institute of Kennedy-King College in Chicago – part of the City Colleges of Chicago – is a five- to six-month program that prepares students for employment with a public utility, private electrical contractor or cable company.

Antonio Greer, an overhead electrician at ComEd and OELW alum, grew up in what he describes as a “bad neighborhood.” He was looking for a change of lifestyle when a friend recommended he apply for the program.

OELW gave Greer a new perspective on life. “Dawson taught me how serious you take your training dictates how well you succeed,” he said.

Greer offered advice to future students. “It will all be worth it. It can change your life, by providing an opportunity to do something more meaningful and help others. It gives you a purpose,” he said as he reflected on his life since graduating from Dawson Tech 12 years ago.

After he graduated, Greer joined ComEd. Since then, he’s grown in his career as an overhead electrician. In 2018, he even joined a group of line workers who went to Puerto Rico to restore electricity in communities there following two devastating hurricanes.

Irving Carrera, construction supervisor at ComEd and OELW alum, grew up in a Hispanic household where his mom took care of the home and his dad worked multiple jobs. Wanting to help provide for his family, Carrera himself worked two jobs and was searching for a new one when he first learned about OELW. After attending an orientation for the program, he decided it was right for him.

One of the most important lessons Carrera learned was “to think with your hands, look out for each other and be safe in everything you do. There is no timeframe on safety,” he said. “Care for others, because everyone comes from different backgrounds.”

Carrera is now a 12-year veteran of ComEd. One of his proudest accomplishments has been moving to a neighborhood where he and his wife can safely raise their family, thanks to his career.

More than 360 students have completed the OELW program, and many graduates are now employed at ComEd or affiliated contractors.

The advanced certification program is open to anyone interested in a career as an overhead electrical line worker. People interested in applying to the program should call Kennedy-King College admissions at 773-602-5555 or visit ccc.edu and search “Electrical Line Worker.”