MMUA Holds First Lineworker Rodeo Training Clinic

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MMUA Holds First Lineworker Rodeo Training Clinic

February 11, 2015

Minnesota has established a significant presence at national lineworker rodeos. That effort (and ultimately the quality of Minnesota municipal lineworkers) is being taken to another level. MMUA held its first Rodeo Team Training Clinic Jan. 27-28 at the MMUA Training Center in Marshall. Approximately 40 people attended. The purpose of the clinic was to better prepare those planning to compete in the APPA Public Power Lineworkers Rodeo, May 15-16, in Sacramento.

Each of the clinic instructors have competed in the rodeo. MMUA Training Center Coordinator Pete Wyffels served as main instructor. Also instructing were: Jared Quandt and Jeff Wagner of Rochester Public Utilities, Cody Raveling, Tony Mead and Nate Janssen of Marshall Municipal Utilities.

“The clinic was good opportunity to go over some of the challenges that we had competing in those rodeos,” said MMUA Training Center Coordinator Pete Wyffels. “There is no better way to prepare yourself than to work with linemen that have competed at the rodeos in the past. We had some really talented guys that offered to help mentor the clinic. Rochester and Marshall have been very successful at past rodeos. They helped with instructing at each of the stations. We also navigated through the APPA web site to get to where questions can be submitted on line. This is a very important part of preparing for the rodeo. The rodeo teams can submit questions on line. The chief judges take a look at them and post them back shortly thereafter with clarification. This is a team effort and we want them to do as well as possible.”

Along with his experience as a journey lineworker and rodeo contestant, Wyffels has a complete understanding of what judges will be looking for in the competition—he is Master Judge for the apprentice events. (The rodeo is divided into Journeyman Team Events and Apprentice Events.)

The national event has already exceeded expectations. Hundreds of lineworkers compete. The banquet is attended by some 2,000 people.

It can be a bit overwhelming for the first-time contestant, and the MMUA clinic was held to better prepare contestants. It was hands-on, and attendees worked through about half of the Sacramento rodeo events. The experienced instructors offered tips, said MMUA Director of Job Training and Safety Mike Willetts, on “what to do, what not to do. We want to help them succeed.”

Safety, and performing the tasks properly, were stressed. Time comes into play, said Willetts, only if competitors perform a task properly and safely.

Minnesota to host in 2016
While those attending the Sacramento event will concentrate on the task at hand, there is another thought in the back of everybody’s minds: This competition will be held in Minnesota, April 2, 2016. MMUA and Shakopee Public Utilities are acting as hosts of the 2016 event, which will be held at Canterbury Park in Shakopee.

Established in 2001 by the American Public Power Association (APPA), the Public Power Lineworkers Rodeo is where public power lineworkers come together from all over the United States and some U.S. territories to demonstrate their skill and knowledge in the craft of linework.

At the rodeo, journeyman and apprentice lineworkers compete for professional recognition, attend training courses and practice essential skills in a safe environment. Attendees will have a unique opportunity to connect with and learn from the nationwide community of lineworker professionals.

The end goal, of course, is for contestants to return to their utility as better lineworkers. To help in that process, training courses are offered along with the rodeo. These courses offer an excellent opportunity for apprentice and journeyman lineworkers to boost their knowledge and encourage success in the field through working safer and smarter. Coordinator for these courses is MMUA’s Willetts.

MMUA will likely hold another event clinic around this time next year. The clinics help to make the rodeo less of an unknown for contestants, while facilitating information sharing.

“We want to work as a state,” Willetts said.

Last year, Minnesota sent around 50 people to the rodeo in Oklahoma City.

“We’re looking for more in Sacramento,” Willetts said. He urged anybody thinking of going to contact him, even if they are not planning in participating in the rodeo. He can help make various arrangements that might make for a better trip.

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