A new scholarship for lineworkers in training has been established in Ohio in memory of an electric cooperative line apprentice who died as the result of an electrical contact on the job late last year.
“Blake touched so many lives in one way or another. Through the scholarship fund, we intend to keep Blake's memory alive by continuing to help others, as Blake would have," said his mother, Brandie Hale.
Hale and her husband, Brandon, were guests of Ohio's Scioto County Career Technical Center in Lucasville on May 26 when the scholarship program was announced. Rodgers received his initial line technician training at the trade school before going to work for the co-op.
The scholarship will help with tuition costs for students enrolled in the school's Power Line Mechanic program. The nine-month program includes 900 hours of classroom and supervised instructional training to prepare students for apprenticeships with co-ops and other electric utilities.
The Community Foundation of Ohio's Electric Cooperatives donated $13,000 for the scholarship fund from the sale of Ohio license plates honoring fallen lineworkers. The foundation designed the plates and receives a portion of the proceeds from their sales.
“The Community Foundation is honored to be able to provide financial resources in Blake Rodgers' name to help future students obtain initial training as they begin to pursue a career in a field that is so vital to all of us," said Doug Miller, vice president of the Ohio statewide association and its nonprofit community foundation.
Miller said the scholarship fund will also receive some of the proceeds from the Ohio Line Supervisors Annual Golf Scramble Honoring Fallen Linemen, set for Sept. 1 in Delaware, Ohio.
News of Rodgers' death during the 2022 holiday season was a tragic example of the risks and dangers faced by field operations workers in the utility industry. It prompted safety stand-downs, initiated by the statewide association's 24 member co-ops in Ohio and West Virginia, last Dec. 30. Crews were encouraged to pause from working to spend time discussing safety and job risks.
As plans spread for the safety stand-downs, staff from other electric and telecommunications utilities in many other states held similar events.
“Using this tragedy to help improve safety is a message many of us wanted to carry into the new year," said Shelby Moore, communications program manager for the Ohio statewide association, who led social media outreach for the safety initiative.
“We encouraged everyone to talk about the lifesaving procedures, their co-op's Commitment to Zero Contacts program and the shared expectations vital to the industry that established safe work practices are never negotiable," she said.
The new scholarship in Rodgers' memory promotes safety awareness as an essential job skill that apprentice line technicians should embrace during training and throughout their careers, said Miller. “Our lives and businesses depend on electricity every day, and linemen make it possible to receive this essential service."