Member newsletter for Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative

SMECO’s newest groundmen started early

Two of SMECO’s newest distribution groundmen trainees got started on their careers before they graduated high school. During their senior year, Josh Morris and Stephen Stiegman spent their mornings serving on Southern Region crews and learning the basics of a lineworker’s job.

Now with their diplomas in hand, Morris and Stiegman are working full-time for the cooperative. In a year, they can move into the training program forapprentice lineworkers.

From left to right: Larry Hayden, Stephen Stiegman, Josh Morris, and Zach Merchant

Watch a short video about what it takes to be a SMECO lineman

Morris and Stiegman are the first interns hired through an arrangement with the James A. Forrest Career and Technology Center in Leonardtown and the Apprenticeship Maryland Program (AMP). The cooperative chose them in June 2023 from students in the tech center’s electrical wiring program. The interns worked full days during the summer and switched to mornings during their senior year. Each intern rotated between working with an underground crew and an over-head crew.

AMP provides high school students with a head start on their future careers. Morris and Stiegman handled the same duties as other SMECO groundmen, such as helping assemble and place poles, terminate wires, and operate excavators. Their training included pole climbing and other skills taught in the early phases of the apprentice program. The students were also able to work the booms on the bucket trucks, and were sent up in the bucket to work on dead and grounded wires.

The new groundmen were given a little more guidance than a new hire and they were shown every process from start to finish, but their work responsibilities weren’t any different from a regular employee.

This internship opportunity is one of the many ways SMECO invests in the members of our community. The program allows students to start interning two years before they graduate, at which point they are able to take a full-time role with SMECO. Having that early experience could allow the program interns to achieve a journeyman rank by the age of 22. SMECO hopes to increase the number of groundmen interns hired in the coming years. Not only does this prepare our local students with career-building opportunities, it also provides your cooperative with additional skilled employees hired directly from Southern Maryland.