Calhoun Poised To Graduate First Female Lineman


Jessica Massey climbs 40′ utility pole Friday at Calhoun Community College. (Photo: Al Whitaker, WHNT News 19)

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DEACTUR, Ala. (WHNT) - Those so-called glass ceilings continue to crumble as women continue to make their way into careers once defined as male-dominated. Take Jessica Massey of Decatur, for example. She is now poised to become the first female to graduate from Calhoun Community College's lineworker program. She will become a lineman, a career with improving employment opportunities.

Nathan Cook, a 30-year old student in Calhoun Community College's Pre-Apprentice Lineworker Program, says the lone female student in their class can hold her own. "We was all skeptical at first. We all thought that, you know, she doesn't know what she's getting into. But I've gotta hand it to her, she's been a real pro at this," Cook said.

Meet Jessica Massey, a young woman who is successfully challenging the notion that in order to be a lineman, you have to be a man. Jessica's about to become the first woman to make it through Calhoun's pre-apprentice lineworker program. In fact, she's outlasted several men who for various reasons dropped out along the way.

"It's just mental. I mean, it's physically difficult but I feel like for me, I had to finish. There was no quitting, I was not going to stop."

The heart of the program is the pole-climbing lab where the students literally make hundreds of climbs up a 40-foot utility pole. But in order to graduate, each student must also free-climb a 75-foot pole using spikes, ropes and a safety harness. Earlier this week, Jessica put her name on the top of that 75-foot pole.

Stan Keenum is retired from Decatur Utilities and has been the program's instructor since it began in 2009. "She's just shown a lot of heart and a lot of dedication. To me, that's a plus for any person that's going to be in this line of work. They're going to have to have that, male or female, and she's certainly shown that she's capable," Keenum told WHNT News 19.

Jessica Massey is proving she's more than just capable.

"If I can do this, I can do anything."

A spokesperson for Calhoun Community College tells us there is a declining supply of trained lineworkers to meet the demands of our nation's electrical utilities. And by the way, less than two percent of America's lineworkers are female.

-- Al Whitaker

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