Cleveland Reid smiled proudly and shook his head in amazement as he glanced down once more at the card he held tightly.
He couldn’t believe it was over. He was ecstatic and relieved all at once. He did it; he was officially a lineworker.
The card represented hundreds of hours of work he put into four years of intense but gratifying training at Lansing Community College (LCC) and the Marshall Training Center. He attended Consumers Energy’s Apprenticeship Training program.
He thought about the bonds forged with his fellow graduates who became good friends he would stay in touch with the rest of his life. He still wakes up every day thankful for the opportunity the job has given him to mature and build a family.
Reid, who is based in Norton Shores, is one of hundreds of Consumers Energy lineworkers committed to providing safe, reliable electricity to our customers. Starting in 2020 through 2025, we are adding 400 lineworkers to manage and enhance our grid. That’s the most in the company’s history during a five-year period and the most ever in a single year in our company’s history – 134 in 2021.
“Consumers Energy provided me stability for my family,” said Reid, who graduated as a lineworker apprentice in 2019 and has a wife and a young child and another on the way. “From age 22 to now at 30, being a lineworker is the reason I am who I am today. I am very fortunate. It really shaped my life for the better.”
Reid was working at his family’s scrapyard in his Upper Peninsula hometown of Dafter when opportunities came knocking that would start him down his career path.
The first was a co-worker who attended Alpena Community College’s lineworker training program. Reid was fascinated by the stories he told about practicing restoring power to prepare for storm duty and describing the equipment he used to do it, such as the digger derrick for digging holes and the bucket trucks.
“I knew about power lines and poles, but I didn’t know exactly what a lineworker did,” Reid said. “But after he brought it into focus for me, right then and there I had my sights set on being a lineworker.”
What reinforced his decision was friendly advice from a customer, who knew someone from Consumers Energy who retired as lineworker and recommended Reid go to LCC.
“I listened to him, and I don’t regret it one bit. I knew I didn’t want to go to college or a university,” Reid said. “My dad to this day says those conversations were some key moments for me that really changed my life. It’s funny how things align.”
When he arrived at LCC, one of the first things Reid had to prove to advance during his apprenticeship was to climb a 30-foot pole to change an insulator.
“When I got up in the air and reached out to change the insulator, it was an exhilarating feeling that I never felt before,” he said. “I was hooked. It was a dream job come true.”
Reid balanced his time training at LCC and Marshall Training Center honing his craft. He learned about electrical theory, replacing downed wires and poles, replacing streetlights with LEDs, cutting brush away from lines and working with primary voltage.
“That last one was really exciting. It was a huge step for me, and I got the same feeling when I climbed the pole,” he said. “It really gave me confidence that I could do the job and do it well.”
What struck Reid about the training as it intensified was his team’s increasing competitiveness.
“Consumers Energy sets a high standard for its employees,” he said. “And in turn, we had to be competitive to meet those high standards. You have to prove that you are paying attention and learning. It’s a dangerous job that you have to be 100 percent prepared for. It’s not a job to be taken lightly.”
One of the biggest physical challenges to complete before graduating was climbing a 40-foot pole five times.
“That was one of the hardest things I ever had to do,” he said. “But my background in playing football and basketball helped me.”
Playing sports also helped equip Reid with the skills he needed to communicate within his team.
“You have to be able to constantly talk to each other in this job, since the smallest misstep can cost you or somebody on your team,” he said. “You really have to build trust with one another – it’s all part of the journey of being a lineworker. Even though we went our separate ways at graduation, I still stay in touch with the team I graduated with. We are friends forever.”
Building Toward the Future
Reid said while he has introduced a handful of people from his hometown into the apprenticeship program, being a lineworker is an acquired taste.
“I tell people all the time to think long and hard about it before you do it,” he said. “Think about the hours you will sacrifice serving customers when the conditions aren’t good. It takes a certain DNA to be a lineworker. You need a passion to thrive in that environment. If that’s how you feel, go 110 percent after it and never look back.”
He added he was impressed with future lineworkers who are joining the ranks through the apprenticeship program.
“It’s like looking in a mirror,” he said. “We are piles of clay in the beginning that are sculpted and shaped in four years to have the best outcome for ourselves, the company and customers.”