AUSTIN (KXAN) — Apprentice lineworkers for Austin Energy had an unorthodox graduation on Friday after completing their Climbing School.

More than a dozen apprentice lineworkers climbed a 70-foot confidence pole and got their completion certificates.

Lineworkers go through a three-week training process designed to introduce fundamental aspects of line work, according to Austin Energy. The training includes formal classroom and field training. It focuses on three areas:

Week 1: Correct pole-climbing technique and how to safely climb power poles.
Week 2: Correct construction techniques and learn Austin Energy Distribution Construction Standards.
Week 3: Bucket truck operations, manhole and pole-top rescue training.

Elton Richards, the Vice President of Field Operations with Austin Energy, said the program is very intense, and not everyone who starts it finishes.

There’s been a staffing shortage of linemen across the U.S., Richards said, but Austin Energy has been able to find qualified people for the job despite the circumstances. Over 80 people applied for ten positions ahead of this training period. Classes are graduated biannually.

“The benefit is that the lineworker program is an incredible program to get into, it’s a great career, for longevity,” Richards explained. “Working for the City of Austin is great, and it’s a very selfless, service-type position that a lot of younger individuals are looking for.”

After passing Climbing School, the apprentices will be assigned to a crew and continue their field learning for about four years before becoming lineworkers.