Celebrating WECA's 90th Anniversary
See our story visually! The 90 Years of WECA Timeline
The Western Electrical Contractors Association, Inc. (WECA) was first established as the Electrical Contractors and Dealer Association of Sacramento on April 9, 1929. Affiliated with the Association of Electragists International (now known as NECA), in December 1929, the Association’s name was changed to the Sacramento Electragists and, subsequently, to the Western Electrical Contractors Association, Inc. in 1990.
The Association incorporated on October 28, 1937, and the following names appeared on the Articles of Incorporation: Rex Moore, E.L. French, George C. Foss, J.D. O'Connor, C.E. Vorlander, Sam Bissett, and C.S. Donley.
During the early thirties, W. H. "Bill" Welch was hired as the first manager of the Association. In the late thirties, the Association became part of the Northern California Chapter, which covered most of the West Coast.
In 1946, the Association was chartered as the "Sacramento Valley Chapter, NECA."
In July, 1958, the Association suffered the loss of its manager, Bill Welch, in an automobile accident, ending his nearly 30 years of devoted service to the Association.
Joseph T. Krivanek became Association Manager, serving until 1961. Kenneth W. Carlson was then hired by the Board of Directors, serving from 1961 until 1990. During that time, his efforts reserved a historical place for the Association in the Electrical Industry.
The Association opened its Sacramento office on Elvas Avenue in 1960, where it remained until 1990, when the office moved to 14th Avenue.
In 1979, the National NECA organization threatened to pull the Sacramento Valley Chapter’s charter because the majority of its C-10 members were non-union contractors. After enduring several IBEW worker strikes in the late 1970s, Sacramento Valley Chapter NECA member Rex Moore Electrical Contractors and Engineers decided not to ride out the latest strike in 1981. Instead, they hired replacement workers, subbing out work to non-union contractors, making history in the process as the first NECA company to have taken this kind of action. Several other members followed suit, further angering the union as well as NECA, jeopardizing the chapter’s charter. Despite receiving threats and suffering damage to property at their offices and job sites, the NECA members who resisted the IBEW strike persevered in the face of extreme pressure from the National NECA office and local labor leaders. These members included Rex Moore, Royal Electric, Slater Electric, and Carlson Electric. Slater Electric was owned by Edward J. Miltner, a member who resisted the IBEW strike rather than give in to union demands, until his business went bankrupt.
Sadly, Miltner died soon after the conflict between the Sacramento Valley Chapter, IBEW, and NECA. Subsequently, the matter moved to the courts. Named after Edward Miltner, the WECA Man of the Year Award was given out each year until 2010 in honor of his untiring efforts toward elevating the principles of the Merit Shop electrical industry.
In response to the Sacramento Valley Chapter’s refusal to disband their chapter, and several members’ resistance to negotiating over the latest IBEW worker strike, NECA began filing multiple lawsuits trying to force the chapter members to voluntarily resign from, rather than be forced to leave, the organization. Other unfounded lawsuits followed over the next nine years for issues ranging from labor violations, to pension fund administration, but the Sacramento Valley Chapter’s members refused to back down.
Finally, the last lawsuit was settled and the charter for the Sacramento Valley Chapter of NECA was revoked in 1990. As a result, the former Sacramento Valley Chapter membership voted that year to change the name of the Association to “Western Electrical Contractors Association, Inc.” (WECA). During this period, WECA began the demanding process of establishing a state-approved Apprenticeship Training Program offering insurance and pension benefits to its indentured apprentices. The Association’s Commercial Apprentice Training Program standards were approved in 1992, the Residential program standards were approved in 1998, and the Voice-Data-Video (VDV) standards were approved in 2005.
In 1997, WECA joined the National Association of the Independent Electrical Contractors, Inc. (IEC) as the Sacramento Chapter of IEC. The Board of Directors restructured the management team, hiring an Executive Director and an Apprenticeship Director. These two positions reflected the Board’s vision and desire to (1) manage local and national priorities for a rapidly growing Association membership; and (2) expand the Apprenticeship Training Program.
Since 1997, WECA has been actively involved in Government Affairs, monitoring political activities within the state, and lobbying on behalf of its electrical contractor members who represent the Merit Shop community. WECA members have long realized the value of a Government Relations program focusing on both advocacies for Merit Shop contractors, and a strong Political Action Committee (PAC). WECA is the only statewide organization exclusively representing the political interests of Merit Shop electrical and low voltage communications contractors in California.
In 2002 the Board of Directors hired a new Executive Director and CEO, Terry Seabury, to oversee both membership and training for the Association. The focus of the Association then shifted to expanding its training programs throughout the state. At the time, WECA was limited to administering training programs and indenturing apprentices in 11 of the state’s 58 counties. A four-year long battle followed against organized labor interests, intent upon preventing WECA from expanding its programs statewide.
That same year, to meet the demands of increased membership in the Southern California area, WECA opened a second location in San Diego, offering a classroom and lab facilities supported by a Southern California Membership Manager, and one full-time instructor. With a full-time instructor on board in San Diego, WECA was ready to implement a one-year trial of a two-week related and supplemental instruction-formatted program to meet the demands of an ever-changing workforce. This two-week format consisted of two weeks of classroom instruction per semester, requiring students to attend classes consisting of 20 eight-hour days per year, instead of the traditional format of two nights per week for two and a half hours each night, for 73 nights. In November 2002, San Diego Commercial 4th year students reported to class in this new format.
The two-week trial program in San Diego was so successful that on May 8, 2003, WECA’s Board of Directors approved to change the traditional two-night per week format to the new, concentrated, and focused learning environment of the two-week per semester format in its Sacramento Apprentice Program classes. Five additional full-time instructors were hired to teach at the Sacramento Training Center, and classes started in the fall of 2003. In that year, the Association also submitted for state approval to add a three-year Voice Data Video Apprenticeship Program for the occupation of Sound and Communications Installer.
In August 2003, as a result of an unwillingness by the State of California Apprenticeship Council to allow the Merit Shop industry to add new programs, or expand existing training programs throughout the State, WECA sought and received approval from the Federal Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration, Office of Apprenticeship (ETA), to federally indenture apprentices statewide into their Commercial, Residential, and Sound & Communications Installer training programs. This approval was a historic move by the Department of Labor as well as a huge victory for California Merit Shop contractors. However, WECA was restricted in using Federal apprentices on California Public Works Projects, due to the State of California refusing to recognize them, which limited the use of WECA apprentices to Federal Davis Bacon Projects, or Private Works Projects.
In October 2005, after a protracted battle with the union-dominated California Apprenticeship Council (CAC), WECA finally won the right to indenture and train apprentices throughout California, when the CAC unanimously voted to approve statewide expansion of WECA’s Commercial Inside Wireman, Residential Wireman, and Voice-Data-Video Sound and Communications Systems Installer Apprenticeship Programs. As a result of receiving approval to indenture and train apprentices statewide, WECA boasted an all-time high of more than 600 indentured apprentices in 2007.
Another leap forward in WECA’s growth came with the passage of the Electrician Certification law in1999, which took effect on January 1, 2006. This law, which requires electricians to become certified in order to legally perform electrical work for a C-10 contractor in the state of California, created a new category of electrical worker: Electrician Trainees. An electrician trainee is an electrician who is not indentured in a state-approved electrical apprenticeship program, and who has not yet met the qualifications to apply to take and pass the State Electrician Certification Exam, but has registered with the State of California as an Electrician Trainee, and is taking the required hours of related and supplemental instruction with a state-approved training program.
In order to legally work as a general electrician in California after January 1, 2006, or as a residential electrician after January 1, 2007, an electrician must either have passed the state exam, or be registered with the state and enrolled in a state-approved electrician trainee program, or indentured in a state-approved apprenticeship program. WECA established our Electrician Trainee (ET) program in December 2005, to meet the needs of uncertified electricians, and the program has consistently been the largest ET training program in the state since its inception.
For many years WECA utilized curriculum developed by IEC, and at the request of IEC, WECA became WECA-IEC for marketing purposes. In 2007, the Association determined that, in order to ensure top quality training and up–to-date coursework, it would be best for WECA to develop its own curriculum based on industry standards, required competencies, and the need for a systematic approach to instructional design that has been proven by educational research to be measurably effective. Also, in response to the certification law, WECA established its Continuing Education (CE) program to provide the classroom continuing education hours required by the state for certified journeyman electricians. With both the ET and CE programs in place, WECA is positioned for even greater growth in the coming years.
The 2000s were a busy decade of improvements, specifically, the year 2002, which is when WECA identified a need for a more comprehensive data management system. Faced with an archaic database that required constant programming changes, and no longer met the minimum data and reporting requirements needed to properly administer a World Class Training Program, WECA hired a programming consultant and began research into the best solution to address those needs. Several key steps were involved in the decision to create a custom database for WECA’s Apprenticeship Program, including a needs assessment, existing product research and review, specification development and review, programming and, finally, testing.
The result of this two and a half year effort was a database designed for Apprenticeship Programs by those who administer and work with apprenticeship on a daily basis, in a format that was secure and easily upgraded. Implementation of WECA’s new database (WECABase) took place in 2005, and since then WECA has continued to make upgrades to the database that continue to increase efficiency, provide students and member contractors with access to critical data, and make the administration of an apprenticeship program an enjoyable experience.
In June 2009, WECA began licensing WECABase as what is now called Apprenticeship Program Management Software (AMPS), and by the 2011-12 fiscal year WECA had licensed the software to six IEC Chapters. Northern New Mexico IEC implemented the software in June 2009, Mid-South IEC in May 2010, IEC of Greater Cincinnati in July 2010, Rocky Mountain IEC in September 2010, Washington IEC in November 2010, and IEC Chesapeake in June 2012.
In order to better support and protect the rights of our members, the WECA Board of Directors voted for inclusion of political action funds with member dues. This was made mandatory for all contractor members in September 2007.
In June 2007 the Redwood Empire Chapter of IEC, who were WECA affiliates utilizing our training programs, dissolved and chose to join WECA as contractor members. This increased WECA’s membership. A Santa Rosa Area Committee was then formed to mirror the San Diego Area Committee, allowing members to stay informed and provide their input.
In July 2010, WECA’s Board of Directors voted to end the Association’s affiliation with IEC National. This was done in order to invest more resources locally to better serve the needs of our members and students by expanding and improving WECA’s programs and services. As a result of this decision, the Association changed its name back to “WECA,” changed its logo, and established a new website address at www.goweca.com.
In order to better meet the growing needs of its students and members in Southern California, WECA opened its third training facility at the Riverside Training Center in August 2010. The WECA Riverside training facility is co-located at the current Associated General Contractors (AGC) Apprentice Training Center at 1180 Spring Street in Riverside, and includes a classroom and lab. Sharing space with AGC allows for WECA apprentices to get more exposure to the other trade crafts currently taught in the AGC apprentice program: carpenter, cement mason, drywall lather, drywall finisher, heavy equipment operator, painter, and laborer. In October 2010, WECA’s Apprenticeship and Training Plan in Sacramento was able to purchase a building for its training facility. WECA moved its Sacramento Region office and training center into the new building that offered more classrooms, and expanded hands-on lab training facilities.
The WECA Sacramento Region Training Center and administrative offices are currently located in this 47,000 square foot facility at 3695 Bleckely Street in Rancho Cordova, on the site of the former Mather Air Force Base.
Through the years, WECA has developed and/or acquired top-quality classroom and online self-paced courses to meet the needs of journeymen, electrician trainees, and electrical contractors. WECA offers Get Wired! Connect to Learning, a four-year blended-learning program of electrical instruction. WECA uses Get Wired! to teach its live webcast courses to students throughout the state of California. Through a combination of lecture and discussions taught in a virtual classroom environment, with hands-on lab activities conducted in person, students are able to complete all required hours in a cost- and time-efficient manner, culminating in an Electrician Trainee Program Certificate. Upper-division courses in the series are also suitable for journeymen seeking Continuing Education hours. WECA's offerings for journeymen and electrician trainees continues to expand, and new courses are added to our catalog each year.
WECA has also taken the lead in the enforcement of the State’s electrician certification law. In 2008, this resulted in a collaboration between WECA and both IBEW and NECA to pass SB 1362, for the first time allowing the Contractors State License Board to enforce the Electrical Certification requirement. To help the CSLB with enforcement, WECA members created the Construction Trades Compliance Program (CTCP) in 2011. CTCP investigates anonymous reports of non-compliance and submits these to the CSLB, and other state agencies for administrative action. It also partners with a variety of other contractor groups to fight the damaging effects of the underground economy. WECA Member Contractors have made significant donations to this program.
WECA Member Contractors also continue to contribute significantly to another worthy cause — the Western Electrical Contractors Education Foundation (WECEF). This 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization was founded in 2005 to create opportunities to inform, educate, and train men and women for successful and rewarding careers in the electrical and communications-related trades. WECEF offers scholarships for students to help with the purchase of tools and materials throughout their training.
In May of 2012, a Quality Improvement Task Force was created to improve the recruitment and testing of potential apprentices. The goal of the Task Force was to increase the overall quality of WECA Apprentices. The Task Force hired an Organizational Psychologist to assist them in the validation of WECA newly selected applicant tests and interview questions. WECA is one of the few Apprenticeship Programs that have gone through this validation process and is in compliance with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures (UGESP). The Task Force also contracted with a video production company and produced the realistic job preview that is on WECA's web site today so that applicants would get a better picture of the day in the life of an electrician.
In 2012, WECA invited several organizations with whom it partners to join the Association as Affiliate Members, notably, ABC Northern California, an organization that trains its Electrician Trainees in WECA's Get Wired! Program and several AMPS database partners joined us.
In the spring of 2013, WECA undertook expansion of its VDV and FLS labs in San Diego, and improvements to that facility were completed that year.
2015 - Today
In 2016, WECA released "Blueprint to California’s Prevailing Wage: A Contractor's Guide," an eBook which guides readers through California prevailing wage compliance, beginning with basic introductions, up through advanced sample wage calculations. In March of 2019, WECA released the second edition, with updated information on California's prevailing wage laws. Well-received by the industry, this publication is intended for audiences at all levels, regardless of prior knowledge, from the novice, to the experienced professional, to the contractor, to office staff.
WECA continues to expand its line of original, self-paced online product offerings for the Journeyman Continuing Education and Electrician Trainee elective audiences. This product line, first launched in 2012 with the inaugural course, “Working with Inspectors,” now comprises eight different course offerings, including WECA’s 2018 releases, “Fire/Life Safety Exam Prep,” "Voice Data Video Exam Prep," and "Service Technician: General Residential." These self-paced online courses, which students are able to take anytime, anywhere, are increasingly popular with electrical students in California, and with WECA’s educational partners.
Also in 2018, the WECA Apprenticeship Training Trust Board directed the Apprenticeship Curriculum Development and Instructional teams to explore and integrate advanced learning and industry technologies to the apprentice learning experience. Stay tuned as WECA takes its industry-leading apprenticeship training to the cutting edge.
To support its advocacy, WECA partners with the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction, the California Construction Advancement Group, and ABC Chapters as well as other contractor groups, business groups, and coalitions. WECA is a sustaining member of the US Chamber of Commerce, and serves on the Chamber Labor and Public Affairs Committees to represent WECA member interests on federal matters.
Because of the dedication and commitment of its members, WECA collects more revenue per capita than most other contractor/construction associations in California. This allows the WECA PAC (Political Action Committee) and PAF (Political Action Fund) to support both regional and statewide candidates who support open competition and Merit Shop core values AND efforts throughout the state to fight PLAs and other discriminatory agreements that impede the ability of contractors, or deny work to its apprentices.
The challenges to Merit Shop contractors are considerable. With a legislature dominated by union-friendly members, and a governor who enjoys considerable public employee and construction union support, WECA and the other Merit Shop groups will be playing strong defense for several years. The construction industry faces constant changes like Skilled and Trained Workforce requirements, and annual changes to Prevailing Wage Law. Membership in WECA helps the entire industry by demonstrating that Merit Shop electrical contractors want a voice in the future.
April 2019 marks the 90th anniversary of WECA, which will first be celebrated at the annual Western Electrical Contractors Education Foundation (WECEF) Crab Feeb, Fundraiser, and WECA Board Installation. Watch for other celebrations and publications highlights throughout the year as WECA celebrates this landmark event.
In 2020, COVID shook the world and our industry. WECA responded by rapidly pivoting to serve its apprenticeship programs online to accomodate California's pandemic stay-at-home orders; including the quick rollout of alternative, video-demo based lab experiences. WECA successfully transitioned the hands-on components of its GetWired program for Electriciaan Trainees into online alternative lab experiences as well, and rapidly launched two new online certification exam prep offerings; one self-paced and one instructor-led. WECA was proud to continue to serve its apprentices, students, and members without missing a beat, and without any disruption to the educations of its thousands of apprentices and students.
In January 2021, WECA marked the dawn of brighter, post-pandemic times ahead with its expansion into Arizona and the opening of its first training facility in Phoenix. WECA greeted its first commercial electrical apprenticeship class in Arizona in that month; training the employees of founding Arizona member contractor Corbins Electric. WECA is currently building out a fourth California training facility, in Fresno, and looks forward to welcoming apprentices there in 2021.
Today, WECA proudly represents a diverse membership of over 280 companies dedicated to the Merit Shop philosophy; these companies employ an estimated 6,000 people in California, and beyond. WECA is currently training a record 700+ Commercial Electrical, Residential Electrical, and Low Voltage apprentices, and is the largest provider of Electrician Trainee education in California. WECA looks forward to future challenges and opportunities with optimism and confidence.