Ben Jones (left), works with student Caden Shoemaker of Leesburg on a practice pole during class. Caden said he heard about Pickaway-Ross’ Power Line program from friends and, like his instructor, wanted a job that will let him work outside and provide job security.

At the back of Pickaway-Ross’ more than 155,000-square-foot main campus on Crouse Chapel Road stand several power-line-style poles, sans electrical wires.

Called training poles, students in Adult Education’s Power Line program start learning to climb them almost from Day 1, said instructor Ben Jones.

“That’s something that we are big on here,” said Ben, who has been teaching the class — with Buzz Detty — since 2014.

“This is a climbing school and when you come out of this class, you’ll be one of the best climbers. That’s why I think we have almost 95 percent of the people who go through this class get jobs because they go to assessments for jobs and they are the best climbers there, by far.”

Ben himself is an alumnus of the program, attending in 2012 after initially studying business management at Ohio University Chillicothe for two years.

“I just wanted to be outside, do something with my hands.”

The need for power line workers — designated an Ohio In-Demand Career —is high and Ben was offered a job with South Central Power while still in the program.

Industry pay has increased with the need for workers, Ben said, combined with older employees retiring.

While the work pays well and can provide a good life, Ben said it can be a challenging industry that requires the right temperament.

“Yes, the money is great, the benefits are great, the retirement is good. But a lot of people don’t see the after-hours. 

“We come in when the storm hits. Everybody hunkers down and we’re the ones out storm chasing, we’re out getting the power back on. So it’s a very dangerous job and a lot of people don’t understand that until they get in here and see it,” he said.

“It’s a very physical job and you have to have the right mindset because you have to pay attention to what you’re doing. 

“There’s a lot of dangerous things that come with this, and that’s why you get paid very well for the dangers of the job.”

Safety is a priority in the program.

“I basically try to break it down to try to teach them safety. At Pickaway-Ross  and throughout the industry, safety is critical,” Ben said. 

“We work on high voltage power lines. Buzz stresses safety also; that’s big for us.”

Working full time as a journeyman lineman for South Central from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Ben then drives to Crouse Chapel Road to teach the Adult Education program from 4:30 to 10:30 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays.

“I never thought in a million years, I’d be (teaching) here,” Ben said. 

But he said he loves being able to give back to students and to the industry he loves.

“I like seeing former students come back and tell me how good they are doing and the things that they can provide their families in life. I love seeing guys do good and get good jobs.”