Thursday, August 26, 2021
Robert Castro, Sr. and Robert Castro, Jr.
At WECA, it’s not uncommon to have students going through programs with their siblings (like the Grissom brothers, all Commercial Apprentices) or following in the footsteps of relatives working as electricians or electrical contractors (like Carroll and Mark Mendenhall, the father-son duo behind WECA Member Contractor Mendenhall Electric). However, WECA has never had a father-son pair go through and graduate from their Apprenticeship program at the same time! But Robert Castro, Sr., and Robert Castro, Jr.—both 2021 WECA Southern California Commercial Electrical graduates hailing from our Riverside training facility—have made WECA history.
Prior to entering the WECA Commercial Electrical Apprenticeship program and apprenticing with WECA Member Contractor Helix Electric, both Robert Sr. and Robert Jr. worked for a small pest control company alongside their respective son and brother, Elijah, also a WECA Commercial Electrical Apprentice! Once Elijah started with WECA, it wasn’t long before Robert Sr. and Robert Jr. followed.
“Being a commercial electrician is a great-paying job with a future. I had different jobs before that didn’t really go anywhere,” says Robert Sr.
Meanwhile, Robert Jr. says that “This apprenticeship has put me in a much better position than before I joined it. I have a much more stable job and make a much more comfortable wage as well. I also am in a trade that can take me almost anywhere in the country if I needed to move; I am very grateful to have had this experience. Plus, they [my father and brother] told me how great it was. I thought the program had great opportunities and I was excited to learn a new trade as well.”
Though Robert Sr. and Robert Jr. went through their Commercial Electrical Apprenticeship program through the WECA Riverside training facility, they unfortunately did not attend classes together due to Robert Sr. having started his apprenticeship program six months prior to Robert Jr. Both father and son, however, say that Keith Smart was their favorite instructor.
“Keith is very thorough, clear and knowledgeable,” says Robert Sr.
“He was very knowledgeable about the trade and always had an answer for any question. He was always in a great mood and was also relatable and fun to talk with. He taught us lots of useful things we used in the classroom and out in the field as well,” says Robert Jr.
Though they weren’t able to partake in classroom instruction together, Robert Sr. and Jr. made up for it by having the opportunity to work together on the job for their employer, Helix Electric.
“We’re a close family, so spending that extra time together at work and carpooling was nice,” says Robert Sr.
And on the job, both Robert Sr. and Jr. reported having similar things they most enjoyed.
“My favorite thing that I learned during my apprenticeship was working on a hospital generator system; it was a great learning experience,” says Robert Sr.
Likewise, Robert Jr. says that “My most memorable job was at a hospital in Loma Linda. It was a 16-story children’s hospital and I did a majority of my work there on a floor that only had air handlers. There were 30-plus handlers the size of shipping containers on the floor, and I found it very fun to bring the power and see them turned on.”
Robert Sr. says that after graduation, he plans to stay with Helix Electric to continue his education and move up in the company.
Robert Jr., meanwhile, says he wants to learn more about the trade and become a better journeyman, and use his skills and knowledge when he moves out of state.
Robert Jr. advises that current and future apprentices “Should stay focused in class and in the field and always have a positive attitude. It is worth all the work you put in. And, this is one of the best opportunities you can take advantage of. Stay determined and learn from the smartest and best students and workers you come into contact with, too.”