This blog was written and submitted by Oklahoma Office of Apprenticeship staff member Cynthia McClain. Great work Cynthia!
Nancy Hedrick had worked in an industrial setting but had limited mechanical aptitude when she was selected as a Power Station Mechanic apprentice at Western Farmers Electric Cooperative’s (WFEC) power plant located near Hugo, Oklahoma. She had worked nine (9) years as a lumber grader for a saw mill in southeastern Oklahoma. The non-traditional experience came in handy when Nancy was hired as a temporary worker and placed at WFEC operating tractors and brush hogs.
Above: Power Station Mechanic apprentice Nancy Hedrick, who is employed and sponsored by Western Farmers Electric Cooperative Power Plant, near Hugo, Oklahoma, repairs a gear box which is part of a drive system in the ash handling system of the plant.
An excellent attitude and work ethic helped Nancy, a married mother of two girls, move from that temporary job into a regular, full-time position with WFEC in the “Wash Down” area. This position involved washing down the coal conveying system at the plant, keeping them free of coal dust and debris and operating smoothly. When a Utility Worker position came open at the WFEC Plant, Nancy applied for the position and was selected. When the power station mechanic apprenticeship position came open at the WFEC power plant, Nancy saw it as an opportunity to continue that career movement. The Apprenticeship Program is a structured learning program consisting of on-the-job training and academic course work. Nancy met the minimum qualifications for the apprenticeship program, applied and was selected. Again, her excellent work ethic and attitude helped Nancy rise above the other applicants for the apprenticeship position and once selected, she leaned forward into the opportunity with everything she had.
Above: WFEC Power Plant located near Hugo, Oklahoma. WFEC has five generating facilities located at Mooreland, Anadarko and Hugo, and a total power capacity of more than 1,700 MW when purchased hydropower is included. WFEC owns and maintains more than 3,600 miles of transmission line to more than 265 substations. Approximately 380 employees work at WFEC. Members consist of 22 distribution cooperatives, located in Oklahoma and New Mexico, in addition to portions of Texas and Kansas. WFEC also serves Altus Air Force Base.
“Nancy experienced a bit of a rocky start at first, probably due to her lack of mechanical experience” reports supervisor Allan Ousley. “But then, something clicked as Nancy started getting her hands dirty and working with equipment. Nancy is doing as well as any other apprentice in the program. Nancy works extremely well and does not require constant supervision and/or attention. She follows correct procedures and standards and has an excellent attitude and attendance. Nancy fits in very well at work and rotates among various work groups in the mechanical area. She asks questions, asks for help when she needs it, and there are no conflicts in the on-the-job training portion of the apprenticeship program” reports supervisor Ousley. “She is held to the same standard as other apprentices and is doing as well as many who have preceded her.” Nancy is scheduled to complete the apprenticeship program in July 2014, at which time she would move to “journey mechanic” status.
“By no means has the Apprenticeship program been easy, but with the help of my co-workers who have great Mechanic skills, for most have been through the program themselves, I believe WFEC will continue to have a successful maintenance team. The Apprenticeship program has given me the knowledge and confidence to perform tasks correctly and safely”, reports Nancy Hedrick.
The four year apprenticeship program for power station mechanic involves 8,000 hours of on-the-job learning and an additional 576 hours of class time. The class portion of the apprenticeship program is provided by a vendor known as Penn Foster, a company with excellent specialized courses for the energy industry. Nancy has a very high “B” average in the classes. “Formula’s was the hardest class” explained Nancy. She had to learn all of the algebraic and trigonometry formulas associated with the energy industry. WFEC is very proud of the apprenticeship program. According to Allan Ousley, “WFEC is putting out the best power plant mechanics in the area. We could not be more pleased with our training efforts”.