ECCC and Career STEP Program assist Troy Blakeney with new career start


Troy Blakeney was looking for a career job that he could one day retire from. Thanks to East Central Community College in Decatur and the Southern Mississippi Planning & Development District’s Career STEP Program, he is well on his way to achieving that dream.

The Southern Mississippi Planning & Development District’s Career Skills Training Education Pathways (STEP) Program is a workforce program that covers the cost of short-term (less than one year) training, such as workforce and career-technical education courses. The program partners with local community colleges, such as East Central Community College, to connect participants to training opportunities and ultimately to career pathways.

Blakeney of Raleigh was pursuing a nursing degree in spring 2021 when he decided to change career paths. He had heard about ECCC’s Electrical Utility Lineman program through friends who had already enrolled in the fall 2021 class.

The 16-week program was launched in February 2019 to prepare students for entry-level employment in utility power transmission and distribution construction, troubleshooting, and repair to meet a need in that field.

Chris Clark, ECCC’s workforce development coordinator, introduced Blakeney to the Career STEP Program, which covered Blakeney’s tuition, testing fees, and supportive services while in the Electrical Utility Lineman program.

“I believe it was God calling me there,” said Blakeney. “After looking into it, everything about that career seemed like something I knew I would enjoy, getting to work outside and alongside others who are all helping people.”

Blakeney began the Electrical Utility Lineman program on August 6, 2021, and completed the training on Dec. 6. Two days later, he began his career with Chain Electric in Hattiesburg working on transmission lines in Alabama for Alabama Power.

“Finding a job wasn’t difficult at all,” said Blakeney. “With the assistance I received from instructor Curtis Bradley and the rest of the people at ECCC, I was able to quickly find employment.”

Blakeney says that thanks to East Central and the financial support of the Career STEP Program he was able to settle into a career from which he hopes to one day retire.

“This is my first real job in a field that I desire to retire from,” said Blakeney. “This experience in the Electrical Utility Lineman program has had a huge impact on my life. I can prepare now to do many things such as get a first home for me and my soon-to-be wife.

“The program is so worth the effort. It has played a big part in where I am now. Chris Clark and LeVar Robinson at East Central were a tremendous help along the way, as were many others at the college.”

For more information on the Electrical Utility Lineman program at East Central Community College, contact Clark at 601-635-6245 or [email protected].

For more information on the Career STEP Program, contact LeVar Robinson at 601-635-6430 or [email protected], or Jaqueline Dedeaux at 228-868-2326 or [email protected].