As downtown Tampa sees its skyline rise, things happening under the street are just as important to the city’s future. And Tampa Electric, powered by a 118-year commitment to both, is taking new steps to support better reliability and electrical safety for the urban core.
Our contingent of highly skilled Journeymen graduate annually from our intensive, four-year training course and fan out across the community, taking their places on the front lines of the electrical system. Previously this has included only linemen and substation electricians, who you can see working at all hours to ensure that our customers’ power stays on.
Starting this year, the graduating class has a new type of role in its roster: Network Specialist. While it’s just as important as the other Journeymen, the work is less visible.
The network specialist descends into vaults beneath the city and at Tampa International Airport, where the electrical grid possesses different attributes. (Think about how you don’t see power lines and poles in these places.) Work involves the art of building lead splices by hand to reroute power; testing and making repairs to existing equipment; and installing new secondary and primary cable through manholes. While TECO has had team members fully capable of handling this kind of work for years, Tampa’s rapid growth requires a specialized team with this as its focus.
“With great support from company and union leadership and approval from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the Florida Department of Education – TECO is proud to welcome veterans into our ranks – we built the Network Specialist training program from the ground up even as people were coming into it,” said Steve Dosal, manager of Energy Delivery Skills Training & Environmental with Tampa Electric. “Downtown Tampa has quickly become a 24/7 destination and home for more and more people, and it’s our responsibility to have team members well-trained to help support of the city’s growth.”
Sam Nowakowski, supervisor of Technical Training with Tampa Electric, said the job is challenging in more ways than one.
“Lots of our people are used to going up in the bucket and working at the top of a pole, but the Network Specialist handles different types of wiring in the dark confines underground,” he said. “It takes a lot of practice and expertise to be proficient at this kind of work – in addition to the right mindset for the tight working conditions.”
Tampa Electric’s first network specialist, Travis Ammann, graduated earlier this year. Following him in the program are four other TECO team members.
“There’s no skating through with this job – you gotta be on the ball at all times, able to work with 1,000-degree lead and ready to put in overtime anytime you’re needed,” Ammann said. “In fact, there’s really no room for error of any kind with this work, but with safety our top focus at TECO, we’re well-prepared to do what we need to do when we’re working in the underground vaults.”
And even though “unexpected challenges happen daily,” as he put it, Ammann said he takes great satisfaction in the job – and he’s proud to be a pioneer.
“It seems more important than anything I’ve ever done.”
As downtown continues to be the site of large-scale and even global events – from political conventions to the more than $3 billion, 50-acre Channelside development currently underway, things like the College Football Championship and others – our network specialists will only be in more demand.
And backed by a training program at TECO, they’ll have the tools they need to succeed in the never-ending effort to keep the community humming with safe, reliable power – your power.