Irrigon Man Graduating From Apprentice Program

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An Irrigon man is among four students who will graduate from the Walla Walla District’s Power Plant Apprentice Program this morning during a 10 a.m. ceremony at McNary Lock and Dam, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials announced.

The four include Ed Hodges, an Air Force veteran from Irrigon, who works at McNary Lock and Dam as a power plant electrician; Mark Hymas, from Kennewick, Wash., who also works at McNary Lock and Dam as a power plant operator; Doug McClellan, from Spokane, Wash., who works at Lower Monumental Lock and Dam as a power plant operator; and Robert Rathburn, a Marine Corps veteran from Kennewick, Wash., who works at Lower Monumental Lock and Dam as a power plant mechanic.

The apprentice program, based at McNary Lock and Dam near Umatilla, develops trades and crafts journeymen to serve in Walla Walla District hydropower facilities. The program typically graduates three to four apprentices each year. Depending on prior education, or simultaneous enrollment in a related college education program, students can pursue a three- or four-year program to become electrical, mechanical or operations journeymen.

The first year focuses on gaining general hydropower knowledge, after which each student pursues a dedicated craft that signifies the start of a new career. The next two to three years are spent under the guidance of journeymen and a rigid academic curriculum. Academic work includes textbook studies, computer-based training and a strong emphasis of hands-on training. During their apprenticeship, students gain work experience at all six hydroelectric facilities in the district before they join the workforce as craftspersons.

“The power plant apprentice program enables the district to better meet its future craftsman needs. It’s a critical part of maintaining a sustainable workforce in highly technical career fields. Apprentices learn from the masters, rather than trying to glean that knowledge out of a book at a later time when the experts may not be here to help them,” said Robin Floyd, Walla Walla District’s training manager for the program. “We’re excited to welcome these graduates into the ranks of journeymen, and to thank the craftsmen who coached them.”

For more information about the Walla Walla District’s Power Plant Apprentice Program, check out the Corps of Engineers’ website.