With an unrelenting focus on safety, Franklin Training Center grows to be best in the state
In 1967, Hoosier Energy’s Franklin Training Center site was just a simple concrete block building full of mice that couldn’t be used for its intended purpose – a primary substation powered from Napoleon – because new regulations restricted power line construction in the area. Co-op leaders were dreaming of a training program to ensure line workers had the skills and knowledge they needed to keep themselves and others safe on the job.
A formal program was set into motion in October 1974 by Board of Directors Chairman Dewy Barnett, and the first Hoosier Energy Apprenticeship Training and Safety (HEATS) class launched on April 12, 1975. That class was taught by Joe Robb at Daviess-Martin County REMC.
However, Bob Richhart had a vision to turn the Franklin site into a home base for both classes and physical training. Because of his passion for safety and employee training, Richhart was instrumental in meeting the growing needs of the members. The HEATS program became a cornerstone of Hoosier Energy’s employee development program, as well as a continuing education opportunity for journeymen.
“I really can’t say enough about the Franklin Training Center and the work our safety team does there,” Richhart says. “The facility offers in-depth training in a safe environment that allows for one-on-one classroom and field work.”
While the program’s focus has always been to train cooperative employees, HEATS has transitioned into a comprehensive training opportunity housed at the Franklin Training Center. Officially opening in 2003, it quickly gained in popularity for being an exceptional program.
“We have groups contacting us on a regular basis to see if they can either join some of our training sessions or use our facilities to train their groups,” said John Bullock, Hoosier Energy Safety and Training Specialist. “There isn’t another training facility of this caliber in the state of Indiana. It is something for which we take pride.”
That original block building evolved into one classroom and a garage, and then in 2015, the addition of a second classroom and garage were completed. Having a space for meter training and classroom instruction, as well as a training yard with poles and underground circuits – added in 2019 – means member cooperatives can be confident their apprentices and journeymen have experience and exposure with the most up-to-date and best technology available.
Member cooperatives looked to expand the program again in 2019 with the launch of the Member Service Representatives HEATS program. With a focus on front office employees, this new educational track helps co-op employees learn terms and processes to better explain outages and other events to member-consumers. Upon satisfactory completion of the two-and-a-half-year program, indentured participants receive an apprenticeship certificate.
“We hope that this process will not only build relationships between the participants, but also build relationships within each co-op, from the front line to the line workers,” said Bullock.