Fresh off spring break, 21 students ran through drills on utility poles, on a plateau behind a row of stores off of Ulster Avenue in Saugerties.
This is the second ever class to take the 15-week apprenticeship program offered by the Linemen's Institute of the Northeast (L.I.N.E.).
Several students came from out-of-state while a handful are from the Saugerties area. Some students are fresh out of high school. Others, like Lukas Gran of Saugerties, are changing careers.
"I think there's a lot of people going toward trades than traditional college," Gran said of his circle of friends, many of whom are pursuing careers as mechanics and electricians.
When Gran finishes the program, he will be a high-level apprentice with a commercial driver's license (CDL), the kind of candidate power companies may have to compete for.
"It's easier to get out of school and find a job immediately," Gran said. "You don't have crazy student debt when you get out of here."
Research by the Institute for College Access and Success found that in 2017, 60 percent of graduates from SUNY at New Paltz have debt. The average debt per student is just over $26,000. When factoring in all colleges in New York state, they found the average debt is just over $30,000.
L.I.N.E. Chief Operating Officer and Head Instructor, Donald Leiching, said the course costs about $18,000 with room and board included.
Leiching, a former lineman with more than 30 years experience, explained the tuition is manageable. There is a shortage of trained utility workers, so power companies recruit hard and pay well.
During an interview with Spectrum News at the training area on Wednesday morning, Leiching spoke definitively about what lies ahead for his graduates.
"We have companies coming in to interview everybody," Leiching said. "We have companies that we'll go visit and spend a day with them testing [and] training. They'll all get offered positions."
All 21 students are scheduled to graduate in late April.
Leiching expects all of them will earn between $60,000 and $65,000 in the first year of work, with bonuses, raises, and overtime adding up quickly.
"If they work overtime, they can easily make $100,000 a year," Leiching said unequivocally.
Since college is still the more desirable choice for most college graduates, there is a shortage of workers in the trades, according to numerous experts on labor.
As for the outlook, 62 percent said they believe it will stay just as difficult, or more difficult, to attract workers over the next 12 months.
Mitch Gross, a spokesperson for Boston-based Eversource Energy — one of the Northeastern U.S.'s largest energy companies — told Spectrum News on Wednesday the company hired four out of the six students from L.I.N.E.'s first-ever graduating class, and Eversource is "always looking for qualified people."
When asked about L.I.N.E.'s second class of 21 graduates, he replied: "Eversource wants to interview every single one of them."