You just never know when opportunity will present itself. That’s exactly what happened just a few months ago when Batesburg-Leesville High School building construction teacher Benard Trotter struck up a conversation with a fellow patron at a local lumber supply store. That patron happened to be Robby Feaster, who works with Dominion Energy South Carolina as the company’s Manager of Electric Safety and Training. Out of that small talk, a grand partnership was formed.
“Robby started telling me about Dominion Energy’s training facility and how they had partnered with a school district in Columbia to have students construct some of the buildings that were used for employee training. He said they had built a few for them last year, but then COVID hit and halted construction. So, I offered for my students to step in and help as well,” said Mr. Trotter.
After meetings between the company and school took place, an agreement was reached and students in Batesburg-Leesville High School’s Career and Technology Education Center got straight to work constructing buildings that will eventually be housed at Dominion Energy’s Lake Murray Training Center. The 37-acre facility is located behind the Lake Murray dam in Lexington and is used by Dominion Energy South Carolina to provide training to apprentice linemen and electricians. CDL, crane, technical and engineering training is also conducted there.
Training at the facility ensures that Dominion Energy employees operate switches and devices in the field safely and correctly. In an effort to make the training as realistic as possible in a safe and controlled environment, officials decided to replicate neighborhoods and industrial parks at the facility by constructing roads and buildings. Once completed and delivered, the buildings being constructed by students at Batesburg-Leesville High School will represent houses and businesses that employees see in their everyday work. Trainees will be able to set meters, check voltage, and operate switches on the buildings, simulating issues they may encounter in the real world.
"Our apprentice linemen embark on a four-year, physically and mentally demanding apprenticeship that begins with conditioning themselves to climb poles as naturally as walking,” said Keller Kissam, Dominion Energy South Carolina President-Electric Operations. “When they are ready to put on a Dominion Energy uniform, one of their biggest rewards at the end of each day is looking back at projects they have built with their hands that provide safe and reliable energy to South Carolina. We are so grateful to the wonderful faculty and bright, hard-working students at Lexington School District Three who have helped enhance this important training. Their craftsmanship and knowledge of equipment and tools are still highly valuable in a modern workforce."
Dominion Energy supplies all of the materials needed for construction to Batesburg-Leesville High School and provides transportation of the finished buildings from the school to the training center.
“This partnership provides a significant tool for our students to not only gain hands-on training and experience in the construction field, but to also know that the work they are doing is contributing to the overall success and productivity of the state of South Carolina. We are so grateful for Dominion Energy’s support of our school and for their visionary leaders who see the value in supporting career and technology education-related opportunities for young people,” said Sonya Bryant, Principal of Batesburg-Leesville High School.
To date, the Batesburg-Leesville High School Career and Technology Education Center has completed two buildings for Dominion Energy with three more under construction.