By LYDIA BERGLAR
Complementing both the television show “Woodwalkers” and the YouTube series “Toward the Storm,” Southeast Lineman Training Center’s “Lineman Country” podcast shares the stories of instructors and students at SLTC. The show helps incoming students prepare for their time here in Dade County and their future career after leaving lineman country.
The first episode was released in August 2022, and the show is now in its second year. Each episode is a conversation between the podcast team and an SLTC student or instructor. The school’s co-owners, PJ Nardy and David Powell, interview the students while the marketing team, Jaclyn Johannsen (digital marketing specialist) and Danielle Hughes (graphic designer), interview the instructors.
This isn’t Powell and Nardy’s first podcast experience. They were guests on Faith Driven Entrepreneur, Episode 140, during which they discussed their personal stories and the purpose behind SLTC.
Powell said, “Jaclyn and Danielle do a great job of bringing staff members in and asking questions. Listeners get to know more about the school by hearing from the instructors. For me and PJ, it’s about connecting with the students. We don’t get a lot of time with students, so getting to talk with them for the podcast is a lot of fun.”
He continued, “The students come from all different backgrounds, from all over the country, and they have amazing stories. They each have their own path of how they chose to get into the trade. For individuals who are looking at this career, [these stories] are relatable.”
One key purpose of the school’s content production is to give students who are already signed up more information about SLTC. Nardy said, “‘Woodwalkers’ was more about promoting the industry and bringing awareness to the trade. ‘Lineman Country’ is more about individual stories. A lot of students don’t tour the school prior to coming down, so we want to give them as much information and familiarity as we can while at the same time publicizing the trade. We want them to have practical and realistic expectations coming in, instead of thinking they just pay their tuition, move down to Trenton, and 15 weeks later, have a great career. We want them to hear from the students who are here so they can make an informed decision.”
Monitoring the engagement with posts and episodes, Hughes and Johannsen have noticed that family and friends of students often tune in. Hughes said, “Sending a family member into linework is kind of intimidating, so we get a lot of family engagement. They want to learn about what their sons, daughters, spouses, nephews, etc. are doing.”
The team would like to interview as many instructors as possible. Hughes said, “I love interviewing the instructors because they have such a passion for the trade, and hearing what got them into it and their journey through the industry is so interesting and inspiring to me. They all say it’s in their blood which is why instead of retiring, they wanted to be instructors.”
The instructors are also key to finding great students to be on the podcast because they interact with them on a daily basis.
Brother Eddie Cantrell will also make an appearance on an episode in the coming months. Powell said, “As Brother Eddie walks around campus, he has the chance to impact the students from the spiritual standpoint.”
When asked what makes someone a good fit for linework, Powell responded, “You can’t look at somebody and know if they’ll be good at this or not, but overall, it’s someone who wants to be outdoors and is a hands-on learner. Also, you cannot be afraid of heights.”
Beyond the high incomes and job security in this line of work, Powell said, “The draw, too, is to make a difference. They typically desire to have impact in some way, to do something that matters. We forget that our society functions because of linemen. Electricity is fundamental to our society, and it works because of people who are in the electrical trade, so these people make an impact in the world.”
The owners and staff at SLTC believe that their role is to train well-prepared workers and also positively influence the students who come to lineman country for even a short while. Powell said, “We see faith, family, fitness, and finance as cornerstones. Can we equip our students in those areas so they are a better version when they leave here? We’re stewards of the business and of the lives we impact. God led us to this point, and He’s continued to bless the business in a lot of different ways, so we’re stewarding what we have the opportunity to be a part of.”
Nardy explained, “Our faith lived out looks like a conviction and responsibility for those we have influence over. Having this many people come in who are looking to us for answers, that’s not taken lightly. The emphasis for all of us is someone else’s success, not our own individual success.”
Therefore, the school includes a Career Planning Strategies course and Financial Literacy as part of the program.
Powell added, “We want our graduates to be successful, whatever that looks like. Most of them are going to leave here and go into the trade, but some might not stay in the trade. They’ll do something else down the road, so are we equipping them for that?”
Hughes and Johannsen work to incorporate the school’s values into all branches of their marketing, media, and communications. Hughes said, “We see comments on our videos, social media, and the podcast saying that the content helps them be passionate about this career. The stories that the people tell in the podcast encourage students that no matter what you’ve been through, struggled with, or given up to come here, it is something you can do if you put your mind to it.”