Western Electrical Contractors Association, Inc.

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Michael Braaten, WECA Low Voltage Apprenticeship Valedictorian, Class of 20222022 Northern California Low Voltage Valedictorian Michael Braaten cites his WECA education as being “very wide-ranging and interesting” and says that “being in a cohort with people from many different subtrades really gave me a deeper understanding of how low voltage works and what it takes to be successful on a job site.” 

Michael, who works for WECA Member Contractor E1 Audiovisual Technologies, expounds on his sentiment by saying that “My WECA education gave me a lot of background knowledge about how low voltage works in general, and electrical code, project management, and tools to be successful on a job site. Beyond that, having classes with such a wide variety of people from various subtrades really gave me excellent insight into what it is like working in those other trades, as well as how to successfully collaborate with them on site to get the job done.” 

Michael also says that his on-the-job training with E1 was very diverse and challenging in many ways, but extremely rewarding. 

“Audiovisual construction is a very large umbrella with a wide variety of tasks and responsibilities, from building seismic support structures for projector screens to commissioning systems with a laptop connected to the same VLAN as the AV equipment. Being given so many different tasks and opportunities to succeed has kept the work interesting and rewarding,” says Michael. 

Additionally, Michael praises the WECA educational model and how it allows students to have a good work-life balance. 

“I think having classes separate from our regular work is a great way to learn; it would be much harder to focus if we were having to work all day and then go to classes in the evenings or weekends,” says Michael. “I also think having such knowledgeable and attentive instructors was key. Lastly, having a supportive team at the company was extremely helpful. They all picked up the slack while I was at school, so I didn’t have to worry about anything going sideways with my projects.” 

Michael advises current and future students to embrace all the opportunities that the WECA apprenticeship programs have to offer. 

“Don’t write the classroom opportunities off. While on-the-job training is the best way to learn a trade, we are given such good opportunities to collaborate with and learn from people while we are in class. Take advantage of the opportunity to learn something you otherwise wouldn’t have, and always look for ways to apply that knowledge or wisdom when you get back to the job site.” 

After graduation, Michael plans to continue working for E1 as a journeyman lead technician but aspires to “eventually move into more of a foreman/on-site project manager role for all the California-based projects that my company works on. I’ve found that I really enjoy leading a crew, as well as the opportunity to teach new AV apprentices how to be successful in our industry.”  

Michael also credits his apprenticeship and career successes to the team at E1 – Chad, Katrina, and Amie – as well as his family and his girlfriend, Barbra.  

“Most of all, I want to thank my girlfriend Barbra, who has been nothing but supportive and awesome throughout all of the challenges that my work and apprenticeship have presented.”