Des Moines Area Community College Doubles Class Size for Electric Utility Course Based on Success of First-of-its-Kind Digital Curriculum for Line Mechanics
Williamsburg, VA and Des Moines, IA – Index AR Solutions, a leading creator of digital workforce training, announced that Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) is doubling the class size of a new digital curriculum-based line mechanic course in the fall of 2023 following positive results and feedback from its first offering. The course is part of DMACC’s new Electric Utility Technology Program and is positioned to help address the acute shortage of skilled workers facing major utilities such as MidAmerican Energy.
Under the terms of a teaming agreement, Index implemented an immersive, multimodal digital curriculum for classroom instruction at DMACC that gives students the exact skills and information needed to be hired as a power line mechanic. The curriculum was based on modern, field-proven training materials that Index created with MidAmerican using eBooks and mobile apps delivered via tablets.
Fourteen of the fifteen students enrolled in the course’s first semester at DMACC last fall returned for the spring semester. Based on demand signals and positive feedback from students and the instructor, DMACC decided to double the class size for the fall of 2023, and it was quickly oversubscribed, with more than 30 students and counting already lined up to register.
“When students come to us and get the Index materials and see what they are going to be seeing out in the workplace, it makes them more confident and competent,” said Rob Denson, President of DMACC. “The Index eBooks and apps create excitement, giving students a great chance to experience real life in a virtual setting and providing a concept of what the job is really like.
The development comes at a critical time, as utilities struggle to place skilled people in the lineman career field. Currently, there are very few colleges that offer programs for the line mechanic trade. It can take two years to get qualified line mechanics into the field, making it difficult for utilities to keep up with workforce demands. The Center for Energy Workforce Development (CEWD) estimates the energy industry will need to hire approximately 500,000 new employees over the next 10 years.
The digital curriculum developed by Index is a fundamental shift in the way linemen are trained. Instead of static, one-dimensional textbooks, apprentices now consume instructional material in the form of rich multimedia that is also interactive.
“We are inspired by this groundbreaking educational initiative, powered by Index eBooks and apps,” said Dan Arczynski, CEO at Index AR Solutions. “Thank you to MidAmerican and DMACC for partnering with Index to prove out this new approach to accelerate learning.”
The line mechanic course created by Index and MidAmerican includes nearly 1,000 eBook pages of vetted content and 200 instructional videos of actual line mechanics performing work and giving guidance. The videos also emphasize the importance of safety and commitment to customer service – with seasoned workers who share wisdom and real-world stories from the field.
The course includes augmented reality (AR) experiences and 3D animations in 12 applications that cover a range of topics such as switchgear devices, voltage regulators and truck hazards.
Hands-on learners have responded very positively as the highly interactive iPads make it easier for students to consume information and virtually test what they are learning in the classroom before going to the field. For example, in the course’s Transformer Trainer application, students tap and drag across the screen to make wiring connections and then receive instant feedback on whether a connection was made correctly.
“We are excited to see the feedback from both DMACC students and faculty, as it underscores what a great opportunity this is for students to earn an Electric Utility Technology Associates Degree and confidently enter the lineman trade,” said Chelsea McCracken, Vice President for Safety, Training and Development at MidAmerican. “Ultimately, this successful partnership with Index and DMACC is helping us create a new talent pool that is trained to an industry standard, while also potentially accelerating DEI hiring goals and extending training access to underserved communities.”
DMACC is the largest and most diverse community college in Iowa. MidAmerican is a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway Energy, wholly owned by Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE: BRK.A; BRK.B).