Some opportunities seem too good to be true. The Underground Utility Field Technician class at Putnam|Northern Westchester (PNW) Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) is one of them – but in this case, it is true.
After three months of training, students in the Adult Education class earn a certification to work nationwide in a position that offers a healthy salary, a company car, a matching 401K, and plenty of room for advancement.
The 71-class course is a partnership between PNW BOCES and USIC, which contracts with utility companies, contractors, and municipalities to keep track of gas, water, and electrical lines beneath our feet.
“It's not a very widely known profession, but every state in our union has an 811 system,” said Darrin Haynes, senior manager of Career and Technical Education at USIC.
“That system is what homeowners and contractors use to locate underground utilities before they start an excavation project,” Haynes explained.
The class prepares students to work as entry level technicians in a field that Zip Recruiter estimates will grow by 30% by 2031, Haynes said.
That potential for growth is part of what drew Darron Burgos, of Peekskill to the class.
This will be a second career for Burgos, 40, who spent many years as an educator.
“I left my long-time career a few years ago, and I've been doing jobs in between,” Burgos said. “I was looking for something to do more permanently, and I liked the nature of the job. You're not just sitting in one place or being in one room for a whole day. You can move around. That appealed to me.”
The USIC class instructor, Juan Otero, started as a field technician and worked his way into a teaching spot.
In their classroom in Tech Center West, Otero teaches his students how to find underground wires and pipes by hooking one of their tools of the trade up to a virtual reality machine.
Otero shows the students how to use one piece of equipment to find magnetic fields created by pipes or wires and another gadget that is like a souped-up metal detector to find them.
“We don’t just teach the fundamentals; we also try to teach students how to problem solve,” Otero said.
The skills they are taught can be used in positions nationwide.
“Once you learn and master the skills of a utility locate technician, you're employable for life,” Haynes said.
The Underground Utility Technician class pictured from left to right: Teacher Juan Otero, Asher Quilan, Darron Burgos, Zaire Davis, and Enrique Glazier.