California’s Electrical Trainee (ET) Program

States of America

To perform electrical work in the state of California, you must either have your state journeyman license, be enrolled in a state approved apprenticeship program, or be registered as an electrical trainee. 

The difference between being an apprentice and being an electrical trainee is simply that an apprentice is enrolled in a 4-5 year apprenticeship program. In this program, they are placed with contractors associated with the apprenticeship to get their work hours while they attend school in the evenings at their apprenticeship training center. An electrical trainee on the other hand is someone who works for an electrical contractor and goes to a state approved school, like a community college or private trade school. The electrical trainee is not affiliated with a program that places them with a contractor, so they have to interview and apply to workplaces on their own, whereas an apprentice would be automatically placed with a contractor when they start the program and if they were to be laid off. 

Note: Despite an apprentice and an electrical trainee being two separate “classifications” of workers, they are both commonly referred to as apprentices on the jobsite, to separate them from journeymen who have their state license. 

How do I become an electrician trainee?

I would first recommend checking out an apprenticeship program as there are many benefits that come along with them, including guaranteed pay raises and automatic placement with contractors, however there are many situations in which you might want to be an electrician trainee instead. For that, keep reading. 

The first thing you have to do to become an electrician trainee is get enrolled in a state approved school. There are many community colleges that offer electrical classes, but if none are available to you there are online classes you can take through the Western Electrical Contractors Association (WECA)

Once you have enrolled into a state approved school, you have to fill out an electrician trainee application, attach your proof of enrollment,and submit it to the state. Make sure to send the letter to the address found at the bottom of the form, and don’t forget to include a $25 check payable to “DIR – Electrician Certification Fund” (All this information is on the application). 

If you have any questions, you can call (510) 386- 3900 to reach California’s electrical certification unit.

How do I get my journeyman license in the electrical trainee program?

Once you complete your electrical trainee program schooling and have 8000 on the job hours, you can submit your application to take the electrician certification test. You will need to submit your certificate of completion through your school of choice, and gather a social security office work history report which will be used to determine if you meet the number of hours required, based on total earnings from the year. 

Note: If you hit 8000 hours on the job before you finish schooling, California still allows you to test for your journeyman license, without any schooling finished. All it requires is a work history report proving your hours worked. There are 6 different ways to qualify to take the state exam test. Described above is option number 5, but just on the job training is option number 2.

I have been working as an electrical helper for a year but have not been registered with an apprenticeship or as an electrical trainee. Do my hours still count?

Yes. This is a weird middle ground because you are supposed to be enrolled in school under California law. If you notice you are working under an electrical contractor and are not enrolled in one of these programs, please do so immediately. However, the state of California also recognizes and approves all on the job hours, even those worked while not registered as a trainee or apprentice.  For clarification, please call California’s Electrical Certification Unit at (510) 386 3900.

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