First woman graduates Austin Energy Climbing School ahead of lineworker apprenticeship

One by one, Austin Energy Climbing School graduates scaled a 70-foot pole to ring a bell, the culmination of a three-week training ahead of a four-year lineworker apprenticeship.

"My whole adult career, I've been in some type of utility work," said Jimmie Johnson, a graduate. "So I'm just going to be really happy to serve my community to help get power restored if that ever arises again."

The importance of lineworkers was highlighted during Austin’s recent ice storms that caused thousands to lose power for days.

"There's an increased need across the industry as a whole: skilled labor, skilled workers and all these crafts are in high demand," said Paul Vasquez, superintendent for distribution, construction & maintenance at Austin Energy. "When we bring in people like Cherie, they become a voice of the community, and they help us share the message with the rest of the group about how these skills and trades are open to anybody."

Vasquez was referring to Cherie Cheramie. According to Austin Energy, she’s the first woman to graduate from the climbing school. 

Though her life has taken her on a diverse career journey, including time spent in the Marine Corps, she said trade work was what she was most drawn to.

"I do like working around the guys, and I wanted to get hands-on with a lot of, you know, the tools, the equipment that we use, go to different places and get to work on different types of jobs outside in the field," she said.

Now, she’s helping pave a vertical path for other women.


"Honestly, it is a lot of hard work. You do have to be confident in yourself to be able to, you know, not only keep up with the men but just keep up in general with your own progress," said Cheramie. "You have to trust the progress. You do have to be strong. You do have to take care of yourself. But don't be intimidated to come apply."

Click here to learn more about Austin Energy’s lineworker program.