About Our Instructors
WECA believes strongly in offering the highest quality student-teacher interaction in all of our programs. As a result, we are extremely selective in choosing our instructors by focusing on their abilities to teach as well as their expertise in the electrical and/or low voltage industries. Our apprenticeship instructors and ET/CE program instructor leads are full-time employees. They come from the industry as not only season electricians and low voltage technicians, but also former contractors, jobsite supervisors, project managers and estimators - all with a stable foundation of experience. Each instructor goes through a rigorous credential and certification process for the State in which they teach. This is done to ensure that each of our instructors know the materials thoroughly, and also that they can convey this information effectively to students. Because of our instructors' backgrounds, WECA students have the opportunity to ask questions that go beyond the scope of the materials. We often hear students say, "It's great to be in a class where the instructor has been there and done that!"
Born in Sacramento, California, Jimmie Slemp has more than 20 years of experience in the electrical industry and has worked for seven large electrical contractors in the Sacramento area, including WECA members Butterfield Electric, Inc., and Rex Moore Electrical Contractors & Engineers.
Jimmie attended Cordova High school just a couple of miles away from the WECA Rancho Cordova facility. "Looking back at my high school days, I was probably not the best student. However there were a couple of classes that were of interest to me-- auto shop and basic electronics." During his final year of high school, he wasn't quite sure what he was going to do, so his brother-in-law introduced him to an Army recruiter. "While I wasn't a great student in high school, I was no dummy either. I had a pretty strong mechanical aptitude and that opened up a lot of career opportunities for me in the Army."
When entering into the army at age 18, Jimmie went into the field of power generation repair, and the mystique of electricity kept him wanting to learn more. After doing his initial training in Virginia and general maintenance in California, Jimmie moved to Germany. In Germany, Jimmie was assigned to a higher level of repair and learned more about the electrical side of a generator.
After the Army, Jimmie went to American River College in Sacramento and took basic electronics classes where he was introduced to more advanced theories of electricity. ("There's more to electricity than Ohm's Law," says Jimmie.) While he was attending ARC, a friend told him about a merit shop that was accepting applications. Attracted to mechanics and the hands-on qualities of being an electrician, Jimmie took the apprenticeship placement test. In 1984, Jimmie became an indentured apprentice and then completed the commercial apprenticeship program in 1988.
In 2001, Jimmie became interested in teaching. After attending a seminar at WECA, he was approached with a part-time teaching opportunity. It was at that point Jimmie realized his true passion - reaching out to and connecting with students. Jimmie went on to teach the night-time apprenticeship courses for two years before he was offered a full-time, daytime teaching position. "Although teaching has its challenges, with challenges come rewards. There's nothing like a student saying, 'Thank you for helping me understand and making it fun at the same time.'"
Today, Jimmie teaches apprenticeship, manages the Rancho Cordova lab facility, and contributes to the ongoing development and improvement of apprenticeship curriculum. In 2006, Jimmie was presented with the Instructor of the Year award for his "commitment to the trade, creativity, patience, and love of teaching" as recognized by Greg Anderson, WECA Board Member and current Chair of the WECA Apprenticeship and Training Committee.
In Jimmie's spare time, you can find him riding and working on his motorcycle. Jimmie says, "Did you know that a Harley Davidson has a three-phase electric alternator? Why? Just like commercial wiring, because it's better than a single-phase."
When it comes to teaching, Jimmie believes "we have a lot of information to cover in two weeks; sometimes I can only introduce a subject to the students. I hope I can do it in such a way that a student becomes interested and continues to learn on his or her own. That's one of the reasons I like the electrical field -- there's always something new to learn."
GetWired! Training Manager, curriculum writer, subject matter expert, instructor, residential and commercial electrician, and professional auctioneer – Dan Bierly is a man of multiple talents and brings many years of experience to WECA. No matter the event-- whether it’s custom training for the California Real Estate Inspection Association, developing the first distance learning program for the electrical industry or even auctioning off gift baskets for a WECEF donation event-- you bet Dan was a major player in making it happen.
After graduating from Yuba College and Wichita State, Dan spent many less-than-gratifying years working in upper management at a well-known retail chain. Desperate to find a fulfilling career, Dan decided to dive into the electrical trade by applying for his first job with WECA member contractor H&D Electric, (who also indentured him into WECA’s Apprenticeship Program, from which he graduated.) Dan went on to work as a field foreman for seven years while gaining extensive experience in troubleshooting and service work. Dan enjoyed his time at H&D, but decided to move on to his brother’s contracting business in the Bay Area, Bierly Construction, to develop his skills as a commercial electrician.
Ultimately, Dan enjoyed working with his hands and seeing the finished products come to life, but he always knew deep down that his dream was to be a teacher. Again, itching to realize his full potential, he got his foot in the door at WECA by applying for a part-time instructor position, teaching nightly Electrician Trainee courses. Dan was quickly recognized as a passionate and knowledgeable instructor and was hired on full-time. He went on to teach a large volume of Get Wired! and Exam Preparation courses as well as many day-time apprenticeship classes. “I used to think I loved being an electrician, but after I taught my first nightly class, I realized that while I only liked being an electrician, I absolutely LOVED to teach,” he says.
Today, Dan’s teaching and field experience, combined with his technical expertise, has contributed to the development and update of top-notch curriculum for all of WECA’s educational programs. This includes the conception of Get Wired! Connect to Learning, the first distance learning program in the electrical industry. Dan also oversees the Get Wired! program instructors, and often personally develops and delivers custom, private training events.
In Dan’s spare time, you can find him auctioning off goods, wares, and rarities and making guest appearances with his fellow auctioneering partner and wife, Kindra Bierly, on the reality TV show Storage Wars: Texas.
Born in Kingstree, South Carolina, Zach earned his Associates Degree in Electronics Technology at the Nielsen Electronic Institute in Charleston, South Carolina. During a two week vacation to California to visit family, he decided to start anew and find a new career on the west coast. Some years later, Zach was introduced to WECA and the electrical field by a family friend. Enticed by the decent wages being an electrician would provide as well as being the type of person that likes to work with his hands, Zach became an indentured apprentice at WECA in 1993. In his final year of apprenticeship, Zach was offered his first foremanship position at H&D Electric Inc., where he happily worked for fourteen years. In September 2006, Zach was offered a nightly, part-time position teaching courses for WECA's GetWired! program.
Today, Zach teaches for WECA full-time as an Apprenticeship instructor. Over the years, he's enjoyed many accolades from fellow instructors and students and was also the recipient of the 2010 WECA Instructor of the Year Award.
Awards and compliments aside, Zach finds teaching very rewarding. "To help students really get it; to make the light bulb 'come on' really keeps me going", says Zach. He loves to make learning fun and interactive for the students no matter how unvaried the subject matter may be. Zach feels that his greatest reward as a teacher is knowing that students are moving forward in their careers because of a concept he helped them to understand. "To have been an asset in the ladder of their careers and the students' appreciation that they were able to go further in the field will always be my greatest reward."
In Zach's personal time, you can find him in the garden growing delicious produce for his family and friends or fishing off the bank in the river. He also enjoys spending time with loved ones and watching the Carolina Panthers beat out the San Francisco 49ers.
When it comes to teaching philosophy Zach says "I like to provide students with the basics of what we do as electricians-- letting them know the value of their education, and how what they are doing today is an investment in their future. I stress the fact that our trade requires us to always be safe, and that safety is the key to a long and lasting career in the industry. I encourage them to get all that they can get from this educational experience, because it is only the beginning of where this trade can take them."
Degrees, Certification/Licenses, Industry Involvement
- Associates Degree in Electronics Technology from Nielsens Electronic Institute, Charleston, South Carolina 1984
- WECA Graduate 1999
- Certificate of Completion of Apprenticeship/Electrician General Certification since 2005
LaKeal Morris is a native of Sacramento and graduated from Burbank High. In 1998, a friend ran the idea of electrical engineering by LaKeal. Having always had a knack for math and science, LaKeal decided to explore a career in the electrical industry. He was hired for his first electrical job in 1998, became an apprentice with WECA the same year, and has been involved in the trade ever since. He went on to graduate from WECA’s first-ever Residential Apprenticeship Program class in 2001. LaKeal has over 15 years of experience working in the electrical industry and has worked with two of Sacramento’s prominent residential electrical contractors, H & D Electric and Marticus Electric.
In 2005, LaKeal was asked to join WECA’s instructional team and began teaching nightly Electrician Trainee courses. LaKeal knew he wanted to get involved with teaching early on thanks to a teacher who had a great influence on him. “There’s nothing like working with students and knowing that you’ve helped them understand a concept and helped get them where they need to be,” he said. LaKeal just enjoys teaching. “It’s important for me to have fun when I’m teaching, even if I’m usually laughing at myself. I love what I do and want the students to have the same kind of experience” he continued. In 2009, LaKeal added to his teaching repertoire and began teaching numerous online courses for WECA’s eLearning program, GET WIRED!™
Today, LaKeal’s experience in the field and teaching has greatly contributed to students’ success at WECA. LaKeal now teaches in WECA's Commercial Apprenticeship program, primarily teaching first-year apprentices, where he is able to combine his knowledge of the trade with his love for teaching. He easily sees the connections between his work in the field, what he learned in school, and what he now teaches to students who hope to follow similar paths. “I’ve always thought that if you can teach somebody how to do something, then it means that you already know how to do it. Passing that knowledge along is the most rewarding part of what I do,” he said.
LaKeal believes he has "found that electricity and life have many parallels. I believe if I show students examples, then they will see life differently and, hopefully, they will be driven to learn more about electricity."
When he’s not shining as WECA’s Lead Continuing Education and Electrician Trainee Instructor, LaKeal enjoys spending time with his family, laughing and playing ALL dancing video games with his kids (On Xbox, not Wii, of course). He also enjoys playing basketball and golf, and he loves absolutely everything about baseball. GO GIANTS!
Degrees, Certification/Licenses, Industry Involvement
- Electrician Residential Certification, 2002
- Electrician General Certification, 2009
- C-10 Contractor’s License, 2010
Keith Smart is Remote Apprenticeship Program Manager at our new Phoenix training facility; he was previously an apprenticeship instructor at our Riverside training facility. A Los Angeles native, Keith has over 10 years of experience from owning his own business to working for contractors like California Associated Power, where he helped build Whole Foods Markets and Superior Super Warehouse Markets. Keith gained valuable experience working on installation projects from refrigeration systems, lighting, voice and data, audio/visual and closed circuit television--and later used those experiences to teach as an instructor in an electrical trainee program for four years.
Today, Keith continues his teaching passion for WECA's apprenticeship programs, from teaching Ohms Law and load calculations, to proper conduit bending, and navigating trainees through Pythagorean theorems. "Working with students is rewarding, especially when I see on a student's face that look of understanding--it says you're connecting with them," said Keith.
When it comes to the electrician career field, Keith's favorite aspect is troubleshooting because of the deep thinking and problem solving aspects. "You really have to think things through to solve problems. It's similar for my students in their training process and satisfying to see because they're the future of skilled construction."
Keith believes "A law of success is setting the right goal. Another law is getting educated in that goal. I am committed to seeing every apprentice receive the best education toward achieving their goals."
Keith enjoys spending time with his family, playing trombone, and making homemade beef jerky.
Degrees, Certification/Licenses, Industry Involvement
- CA-Certified General Electrician
Tom Thompson is a Lead Curriculum Developer for WECA, with particular oversight of our Low Voltage apprenticeship program curriculum. He was born in the suburbs of Baltimore, MD and entered the electrical construction industry at the age of 14. Tom has worked at nearly every level of the electrical construction business and has become experienced in commercial and residential settings, as well as Fire Alarm and Low Voltage. He began running medium size commercial construction projects at the age of 18. Then after moving to Pocono Lake, PA in 2003, he opened his own electrical contracting firm and grew it to be one of the most well known commercial retail electrical firms in the Poconos.
Wanting to develop himself more and find a way to better contribute to the industry and his community, Tom began teaching at a trade school in Pennsylvania. Then in late 2011, Tom and his family decided that it was time for a real change. They decided to move the family to a dream location. After much deliberation as to where they would move, they settled on San Diego, CA and could not be happier with their choice.
In San Diego, Tom decided to go back to school and has obtained his Bachelor's of Science in Organizational Leadership and became a Certified Professional Life Coach. In addition, Tom has an electrical C-10 license, fiber optic, and electrician certification. He is a certified Low Voltage Technician and Fire Life Safety Technician in California. Additionally, he is a registered Master Electrician in the state of New Jersey.
Tom also runs an afterschool program called the Thompson Leadership Academy in which he teaches kids entrepreneurship and leadership. He has teamed up with Qualcomm and The San Diego Airport Authority in challenges that have inspired these young people to shoot for the stars. He has taken his work with kids one step further and also schedules public speaking engagements and workshops on the topics of leadership and entrepreneurship.
On the personal side, Tom enjoys anything that has to do with his family, whether it's heading to the beach, taking hikes, or heading to Sea World. Tom also loves running, weightlifting, and has recently taken up boxing. He says that it is the greatest sport he has ever practiced!
Tom loves to help others achieve their highest potential and is happiest when he can make a positive difference in someone's life. To him, life is a journey of never ending self-development that leads to a more honest and natural expression of yourself. Self development also gives you the ability to accomplish your dreams and goals. Anything is possible in life as long as we are willing to put in the work, aware of our natural abilities and talents, and realistic about where we are today.
Neil Pesarillo joined the WECA Apprenticeship instructional team with over 18 years of low voltage experience in the electrical industry, getting his start early in childhood by helping his electrical engineer father with household tasks. Hailing from Long Beach, Neil primarily teaches at the San Diego training facility. Neil brings some serious passion to the WECA team: "I'm fascinated with electricity--how it's created and what it does for everyone. Power and energy are a big part of our everyday lifestyles and being in the trade, being able to help others understand it and grow within the field, makes me feel I've done my part in helping our apprentices and future low voltage technicians and electricians move forward in making our communities and construction projects safer and more effective for all."
Neil began his career by working with satellite and cable installations as a field tech back in Long Beach, CA. He eventually started working for electricians who specialized in home automation and control. He then spent almost 12 years learning in-depth integration with Audio/Video, Security, Closed Circuit TV, Automation and Control, Data Networks, and programming to integrate all these special features together. Neil adds, "It really blows my mind to see how technology has changed and how it impacts us every day." Neil saw his opportunity to branch out into teaching after he gained a lot of experience training new employees in technical concepts, and in making client presentations. Neil's knack for helping others understand concepts and applications, paired with his energetic personality, makes him a natural instructor.
When it comes to his teaching philosophy, Neil expresses, "I was always taught to do work you can be proud of. My philosophy is to extend that same work ethic to others. I want students to leave feeling confident...so that they can apply the knowledge and practices in their daily routines." This passionate and dedicated instructor also added, "Get ready to learn something that will change your life and others around you. Our trade requires skill not everyone can handle and possess, but if you focus and dedicate the time and effort, you will be rewarded with knowledge and the ability to work anywhere in the world!"
Neil currently resides in San Diego with his wife, Michelle, their three beautiful children, and dog, Luna. They spend as much time as possible together bonding on the beach, making sand castles, surfing, and enjoying family dinner.
"I'm honored to be a part of this amazing team and am determined to help our organization develop strong individuals within the electrical and low voltage trades," Neil says.
Thanks to John Arias's broad base of knowledge and diverse industry experience, John will be teaching across all three of our apprenticeship programs: Commercial Electrical, Residential Electrical, and Low Voltage. He shares, "I am very excited to be the latest team member at WECA." John has been gaining experiences in the trades since he was young; with a plumber for a father and a carpenter for a mother, he's a tradesman through and through! He's worked with a number of California companies, including J&M Electric, Clark Custom Electric, S&J Ventures, Able Electric, and more. John also taught as a part-time WECA Get Wired! (Electrician Trainee Certificate Program) Instructor for years before transitioning to his current position with WECA!
So why did he want to move into full-time teaching? He explains, "I've always loved sharing what I've learned with others. It brings me great joy to see students and apprentices 'get it'."
He adds, "my teaching philosophy is to keep the students engaged with lots of hands on exercises. I believe people drawn to the construction trade tend to learn best by doing. Coupled with a quality curriculum and real world examples, this practice is a recipe for success....My advice to any apprentice is to do your best at any task given. Your efforts and ethics will be noticed."
In John's free time, he loves riding motorcycles with his wife of 25 years, and spending time with their six children. John would also like to add a special note of gratitude for his father, who taught him a strong work ethic and moral standards.
San Diego-based Apprenticeship Curriculum Developer Talon Pobuda worked on residential solar installations and commercial construction before becoming an instructor with WECA. Talon started as a WECA GetWired instructor in 2017 before being hired full-time. In 2020, he transferred to the Curriculum Development team. Talon says, "I got interested in teaching because I found myself giving lessons on my jobsites and I really enjoyed it. So, I started looking for ways to make it part of my career."
Talon loves that there is always more to know in the electrical trade, which allows him to constantly expand his expertise when it comes to teaching. Talon believes in teaching his students to stay dedicated to and passionate about their careers, saying that although there may be less challenging paths to take, WECA's Apprenticeship programs can set an individual for life. Talon adds, "I'm really looking forward to making students into the best electricians they can be. And I hope to be able to help our members by making their apprentices more than just workers."
When not at work, Talon--who was raised in San Diego's North County area--enjoys hiking, flying light aircraft, and auto racing.
Please welcome James Hall, Apprenticeship Instructor! After getting a Master of Science in Natural Resources Management and Wildlife Biology, James anticipated a very different career. But shortly after James completed his Masters, a friend offered him a position installing simple electrical systems, and the rest is history. Finding that he preferred the electrical field, he signed up to take the very first Get Wired course with WECA instructor Dan Bierly back in 2006. His successful progression through that program qualified him to join the WECA team as a part-time instructor by 2011. And now, he’s joined WECA full time. He adds, “I really wanted to give back to the program that has provided me so much.” James was also a tutor in college and a teaching assistant in graduate school, and teaching feels like a natural fit for him.
James and his wife moved to Sacramento in 2007, where James began commercial and industrial work. He was able to work on a wide variety of projects including commercial offices, retail, theaters, manufacturing, schools, and restaurants. For the past 6 ½ years, he’s also been working at Aerojet Rocketdyne. James states, “I started as an industrial maintenance electrician; however, for the past year I was a construction superintendent for infrastructure and manufacturing construction projects on the plant.”
James’s teaching philosophy is collaborative. He says, “I prefer to engage with students as a facilitator or coach….I like to ask a lot of questions and have stories shared--both theirs and mine. My goal is not only to teach someone to install a given light fixture, but also to teach them to read a wiring diagram and the cut-sheet so they can install any light fixture.” His advice for apprentices is: “The electrical field is wide open, and there is always something new to learn…view your time as an apprentice as an opportunity. Stay positive, patient, and be the one to volunteer.”
So what keeps him engaged in the trade through the years? James says, “I am fascinated by electricity. Electricity is all around us, and an important part of so many things. It occurs in nature, it is in our bodies, we use it to travel, to think, to build things, and simply live.” A wonderful point to share—welcome, James, and we wish you the very best of luck here with the WECA team!
Raymond Newton has experienced most aspects of the electrical trade, from residential to full industrial systems, and has worked extensively in the water industry. Raymond previously built and maintained systems to produce clean water, and he found it rewarding to help others have access to clean water. He brings over forty years of experience as an Electrician to WECA, where he teaches out of the Riverside training facility.
Raymond’s teaching style focuses on integrating the hands-on training apprentices receive in the field with in-class preparation. He adds, “I teach the installation in our labs and apprentices put their training to further test at work in the field.” Raymond works to ensure his students learn their trade in the textbooks and the lab, so that they are effective and knowledgeable during their time in the field.
Raymond says, “Being an electrical contractor, I have seen the need for able apprentices and journeymen electricians. The electrical field is constantly changing. New metal alloys that have improved conductive and cooling characteristics, new safety ideas, and new equipment.” He felt inspired to teach apprentices early in their career, and now he does just that. Raymond says he loves educating the newest generation of electricians, and that one of the aspects he most enjoys is preparing apprentices for the state exam. Raymond says his advice to WECA Apprentices is to “always apply yourself with your best effort, because your best effort can be historic.”
Well said, Raymond!
George Leach is WECA’s Lead Instructor for our Commercial Electrical Apprenticeship program at our new Fresno training facility.
Leach—a native of Hanford, California—has worked in the electrical industry for over 40 years and has filled pretty much every position possible in the industry during that time. Leach initially started out as an Apprentice and then became a Journeyman electrician before working his way up to being a foreman, general foreman, superintendent, general superintendent, labor manager, estimator, and project manager.
“I followed the work across the country, so this move into teaching seems like a natural progression to that,” Leach said. “Plus, the fact that everyone at WECA is committed to equipping students with the tools they will need to progress and to be successful in this trade [really drew me to teaching at WECA].”
Leach—who teaches at WECA’s new Fresno training facility—helps students by sharing the educational and real-world application of processes and ideas and using them to help students grow and advance their careers.
“I love that every day I can share ideas that may be new to someone, and learn something from them,” said Leach. “I approach every day as an opportunity to learn something new, and I want to use what I have learned over 40 years in the electrical field to help the next generation of electricians become the best they can be.”
When not educating the next generation of California’s Residential and Commercial electricians, Leach enjoys spending time with family.
“I have four grown children and 10 grandchildren that my wife and I spend as much time as possible with,” said Leach.
George brings extensive electrical industry experience and continued zeal for learning to WECA.
It’s all come full circle for Galen Eckert, WECA’s Online Education Manager for its Electrician Trainee and Continuing Education programs.
Eckert – a longtime Sacramento resident originally hailing from Cleveland, OH – spent a year in WECA’s Electrician Trainee program before joining the Apprenticeship program and graduating as the Commercial Apprenticeship Salutatorian of the class of 2013.
After graduating from WECA, Eckert spent “the majority of my career working for PB Electric in Rancho Cordova, where our main focus was industrial work like water treatment plants, wastewater treatment plants, lift stations, pump stations, newspaper presses, as well as projects for SMUD.”
Though Eckert enjoyed working in the field, there was a yearning to “come home”.
“My interest in working for WECA began as a student, because being an instructor ‘on the other side of things’ intrigued me,” said Eckert. “Plus, I always enjoyed teaching and training apprentices and co-workers in the field and thought, ‘Why not make it a full-time job?”
In his position, Eckert teaches, sets up, and manages the GetWired! labs and corresponding materials; participates in the continuous improvement of the GetWired curriculum; works with instructors to resolve any issues that may arise; manages and coaches WECA's GetWired instructors to be the best teachers possible; helps run the typical day-to-day aspects of the program; and acts as a confidant for instructors and students alike.
“When working in the field, I always took great pride in my hands-on work and my part in creating a perfect finished project,” said Eckert. “I now look to take my knowledge of the trade and pass it on to future electricians in hopes of helping them achieve their goals, maximize their potential, and become some of the best electricians around.”
Continues Eckert, “My personal philosophy is simple. I am honest, straightforward, and hardworking. And I’m always giving 100 percent to produce a product I can be proud of.”
In his personal time, Eckert enjoys building and driving his hot rods, and taking them to car shows and the race track. In addition to that, Eckert likes golfing, fishing, hiking, and stand-up comedy. And last – but not least – Eckert is a Clevelander at heart, stating that he is a “huge fan of all the Cleveland sports teams as well as The Ohio State Buckeyes, as Cleveland is my true home.”
Jaron Stroud is an Apprenticeship Instructor based out of our WECA Fresno Training Facility, and he's also a 2015 WECA Commercial Electrical Apprenticeship graduate!
Looking back on his Apprenticeship, Stroud fondly remembers “growing up with my fellow students as we all became better and better electricians. Remembering what we were learning and struggling with in the beginning and then realizing how much we progressed semester after semester gave me pride in myself as well as my fellow classmates that went on that journey with me.”
Since graduating from WECA in 2015, Stroud’s immersed himself in myriad aspects of the electrical industry.
“I did what I could to see everything that the field has to offer,” says Stroud. “I tried my hand in my different areas of the electrical field, like solar, industrial, motor controls, traffic signals and street lights, and eventually got into teaching.”
Stroud says his favorite thing about being a teacher is that “I get the feeling of satisfaction and fulfillment knowing that I am helping new electricians starting their career get the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in their workplace. I had many people help me along my career path and am more than happy to pay it forward to those wanting to get into this career.”
And now Stroud is giving back and ensuring that current and future WECA Apprentices succeed similarly. His advice is to “Keep in mind that education is what separates good electricians from great electricians. Being in a field that changes so rapidly, becoming complacent in what you know now will only limit your chances of advancement in the long run. Become a lifetime student…as an Apprentice, you’ll be expected to learn many things very quickly but even after you’ve accumulated enough skills and knowhow to be successful at your current job, keep taking advantage of every opportunity to grow, because it will only help you become that much more valuable as your career progresses.”
Stroud also particularly attributes his success to a few past WECA instructors as well as his fiancée.
“I’d like to give a shout-out to all my past WECA instructors—Zach, Jimmie, Ned, and Mike. I would also like to thank my fiancée Jordyn for her love and constant support, for all the late nights and early mornings, and for keeping me sane over the past few years. Thank you for being my muse, chronicler, proofreader, and brain-stormer. But most of all, thank you for being my best friend. I owe you everything.”
Well said, Jaron! We’re thrilled to have another WECA alumnus on our team, and know you’ll do great things at our Fresno training facility!
Who said that retirement had to be boring? Certainly not Franklin Tilley – current part-time WECA GetWired! instructor, former longtime WECA Apprenticeship instructor, and forever champion for WECA and the electrical industry.
“I cannot wait to teach the GetWired! classes every night,” said Tilley. “I try to take real-life construction and safety situations from my past and help students so that they can work safely, do not have to learn from their own trials and errors, and can go forward with an eye to professionalism in building jobs that will be used for 100 years or more. I also try to instill in them ethics and morals, and standards of professional behavior that will set WECA graduates on the road to future success.”
Before Tilley started teaching at WECA almost twenty years ago, he did and continues to do it all – working on the electrical for Native American Indian reservations in Arizona; working for the State of California and WECA simultaneously; serving as president of the International Association of Electrical Inspectors in the early 1990s; and rallying the troops at WECA to recommend the need for state licensing of electricians in California to the California Legislature – which helped to get bills relating to mandated electrician training, as well as increased professionalism and safety in the industry, passed.
And teaching GetWired! courses online is not all that Tilley does with his retirement. He also teaches Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training classes for various law enforcement agencies, fire departments, and college nursing programs across the country, and occasionally gives NFPA 70E lectures at teaching and trade symposiums in Las Vegas.
In his downtime, Tilley enjoys writing letters and birthday cards to his 26 grandchildren – each peppered with tips and lessons on growing up in today’s modern world – and writing a family journal to ensure that his descendants understand that their ancestors were real people who had hopes, dreams, and success stories.
When reflecting upon his distinguished career, Tilley had this to say: “I worked for the state, but I taught for WECA for the sheer love of teaching, and the feeling that I was helping to make a difference for my students.”
And make a difference he does – both inside and outside of the classroom. He’s left – and will continue to leave – his mark on WECA and the California electrical industry for generations to come.
At WECA, we pride ourselves on providing a comprehensive electrical industry education – thanks in no small part to our talented, knowledgeable, and passionate instructors. And we think that Bill Garr – third-generation electrician and our talented Lead Instructor for WECA's Electrician Trainee and Continuing Ed Programs– perfectly embodies these sentiments.
“I was highly interested in teaching for a long time due to the fact that WECA has the facilities and resources to reach out to the industry and instruct with great teachers, coupled with how awe-inspiring working with raw energy and construction truly is.”
Garr states that as a teacher, he loves that he “gets to interact with and show my passion and excitement for electrical theory, construction and science; reach multiple people at any given time online and in the labs, and that having the classes taught online coupled with the availability of the hands-on labs makes it [our curriculum] available for everyone on a personal basis.”
That, and Garr simply just loves “teaching electrical theory and code, which leads to helping people be better at what they do. My goal is to educate and inspire electricians, so that we leave and build a better place for all.”
It is, after all, in his blood.
“My grandfather and father were both electricians,” said Garr. “I first attended community college for general education credits toward an AA, and then I was a caretaker to my grandparents [along] with my father for a few years. After that, I joined WECA, took all the required Electrician Trainee (ET) courses, and received my Electrician Trainee program certificate through WECA.”
And it shows – Gar lists two crucial traits for electricians: curious and always learning – in his personal philosophy. But he also espouses the importance of being humble, respectful, honest, adventurous, and thankful for all opportunities.
When not educating and inspiring the next generation of California’s merit shop electricians, Garr partakes in an impressive repertoire of hobbies like practicing instinctual traditional archery, fly fishing, playing computer games, enjoying the outdoors with his dog, and working out at the gym.
Thank you, Bill, for being part of the WECA family and for continuing your family’s proud tradition of working in the electrical industry, as well as WECA’s proud tradition of counting alumni among its most dedicated instructors. We are thrilled to have a talented and well-rounded individual such as yourself on our team!
One of the things that we’re most proud of here at WECA is that many of our instructors are former students – as is the case with GetWired! instructor Andre Lewis.
Lewis – born and raised in San Diego – graduated from WECA’s Commercial Apprenticeship program in 2010. Prior to landing at WECA, Lewis gained experience retrofitting lighting for banks and warehouses.
And at WECA, Lewis “had the distinct pleasure and opportunity of being taught by some of WECA’s finest instructors – like Rick Labon, Rick Mortensen, to name a couple. And my fascination and love for what we do as electricians grew immensely into a passion which compelled me to give back via teaching for WECA, and to instill the same core values that WECA and their instructors diligently work at articulating and conveying to every student.”
WECA is lucky to have Andre – who also works as a maintenance electrician at San Diego State University – as a part-time instructor with our GetWired! program; we are inspired by his unbridled love and enthusiasm for the profession and teaching.
“Every day brings a new challenge, which in turn creates opportunities for new ideas,” said Lewis. “Working with some of the world’s greatest minds and developing new ways of approaching certain tasks fulfills my heart, and building confidence by exuding enthusiasm when students seem to have lost sight [of the goal] is the joy I find most rewarding with every lesson taught – both online and during labs.”
This is perfectly illustrated by one of his mottos: “Seeing is believing, and in most cases, only confirmed through practical applications.”
Lewis continued, stating that “learning how to effectively illustrate the language means being able to paint a picture so crystal clear you could almost touch it. It isn’t just a challenge, but another benefit to teaching online. These moments aren’t just a driving force for me – but what I enjoy most as an instructor.”
And when not inspiring and educating students online through the GetWired! program, Lewis predominantly spends his days off with his wife Ashley and his three children – Zechiyah, Andre Jr., and Drevione.
WECA’s newest Low Voltage Apprenticeship instructor has come full circle.
Randy Rivera, a native of Los Angeles and the Philippines, was one of WECA’s first Low Voltage Apprenticeship graduates in 2004. Randy—who overall has over twenty years of experience in the telecommunications industry—also became certified as a BICSI Level 1 and 2 installer in 2008 and 2009, respectively, and most recently worked as a Telecommunications Foreman for Valley Communications, Inc.
Randy is being mentored as a new instructor by longtime Low Voltage Apprenticeship and GetWired! instructor John Arias and has set his sights high with WECA—as evidenced by his personal philosophy of “we can always do better.”
“I try to give students feedback as far as my experience out in the field,” says Randy. “My goal here at WECA is to be one of the top instructors and pass on knowledge to my students.”
Outside of work, Randy loves hanging out with his family and airbrush painting.
“I airbrush portraits on canvas and also work on murals with my wife,” Randy concludes.
Welcome back, Randy! We’re excited to have you here and look forward to your future with WECA. Perhaps a mural is in order?
Brian Ray brings an impressive wealth of knowledge and skill to his position as a GetWired instructor.
Brian, a native of Redding, graduated from Sacramento State with a master’s degree in English and a certificate in teaching college composition before completing his electrical education with WECA’s Electrician Trainee program.
“I currently work as a full-time certified electrician [for WECA Member Contractor H & D Electric, Inc.],” says Brian. “I have also worked as a bicycle shop mechanic and manager, a high school teacher teaching students to work on bicycles, a college English teacher, an English writing tutor, an English as a second language teacher in Rome, and several part-time jobs while I was at Sacramento State.”
In his current role as a GetWired instructor, Brian brings six years of education and experience in the electrical field and many years of teaching experience to the classroom, where he helps students learn about the electrical trade and how to navigate the NEC.
“My goals for working at WECA are to help students learn about the electrical trade and pass the California electrical certification exam. What I love about my career is that as a foreman for H & D Electric, I am able to teach trainees in the field how to do hands-on, practical aspects of the electrical trade and as a WECA instructor I am able to teach trainees the theory behind what we do in the field,” says Brian.
Furthermore, Brian’s personal philosophy is evident in his dynamic career trajectory.
“Work hard in pursuit of your dreams, and you will meet with success,” says Brian.
In his personal time, Brian likes to spend time with his family, ride bicycles, and ride motorcycles.
Thank you, Brian, for being part of the WECA family! We love having well-rounded instructors, such as yourself, bring rich and diverse life experiences to our team and students.
Sergio Sanchez-Rangel was born in Riverside, California, and is now an Apprenticeship Instructor at our Riverside Training Facility. He was exposed to the construction industry at an early age because his great aunt was always working for a construction company. His Dad maintains a passion for working on cars, so Sergio also grew up watching and helping his Dad work on them in the garage. “I would say my first electrical job was installing Christmas lights for 5 cents a bulb when I was about 6 or 7,” says Sergio.
After graduating from Arlington High School in 2013, he moved to Gypsum, CO, and undertook two jobs at once: auto parts store clerk from 7 am - 2 pm, and then meat wrapper/sanitation worker from 2:30 pm- 9 pm. He endured that schedule for several months until he landed a job as a maintenance worker for a strip mall with apartments above retail stores; there he learned how to retro-fit fluorescent lighting to the new (at the time) L.E.Ds. In September of 2014, his great aunt let him know that Champion Electric Inc. was looking for workers, so he flew back to California for the opportunity. Sergio says “I never knew I would become an electrician or, early on, even have considered it being such a great career. But I liked science, and since I had a basic understanding of how electrons and electricity worked and always try to have a good work ethic I realized being an electrician was a good career choice for me--especially factoring how rewarding it can be financially. It's personally rewarding, too--I can look around my community and say "I helped build that.”
Sergio began his electrical apprenticeship in 2015. He has been on all types of projects around Southern and Central California. “I was blessed to be exposed to many different types of projects and I tried to soak up all the knowledge I could. The apprenticeship program meant my education was paid for, and I tried to take advantage of the free education as much as I could because I wanted to be knowledgeable in my field. It paid off because I was always able to take what I learned from class and directly apply it in the field and help solve problems.” Sergio passed his California General Electrician Certification exam in 2018 and graduated from the Inside-wireman apprenticeship program (Associated Builders and Contractors Anaheim Chapter) in 2019. He has worked for Champion Electric Inc, Bergelectric, and Rancho Pacific Inc, and has also done contracting work as his own C-10, Control of Power Electric.
When it comes to teaching, Sergio believes, “Teaching our students safe electrical work practices through what I have experienced, and providing real-life examples is so important; this trade is rewarding but it can be dangerous if you aren't safe. I try to make the school experience fun and enjoyable so our students will be engaged with learning the skills it takes to become an electrician and pass their California General Electrician Certification Exam!”
WECA Apprenticeship Instructor Donald Williams, based at our San Diego Training Facility, was born in San Diego but moved to Texas until he was 5. Then he and his family moved back and he’s been here ever since.
Donald got interested in the electrical field just from doing research on the trades—he says he needed something that would pay the bills, because college wasn’t for him. In his research, he found that electricians are very sought after; that they are the first ones on the jobsite and one of the last to leave.
Donald was hired by Bergelectric in 2015 and they registered him in WECA’s apprenticeship program shortly thereafter. He was with them through the majority of his apprenticeship. With Berg, he led work, became an estimator, and then became a project engineer (PE), all while still an apprentice. Bergelectric earned the CalOsha Golden State Award on an airport job on which Donald was a PE.
He graduated from WECA’s Commercial Electrical apprenticeship program as its Southern California valedictorian and became a certified journeyperson; working for a few years as an electrician at SeaWorld. There he was a safety trainer and safety liaison as well. He also began teaching for WECA’s Get Wired program shortly after becoming a journeyperson. “I found out I loved teaching when I became a scuba instructor before ever getting into the trade. My ultimate goal was to become a fulltime WECA apprenticeship instructor, so when I saw the job opening, I applied. Needless to say, it went well, so here I am. I specialize in motors, troubleshooting, and Code,” says Donald.
Additionally, he says "I feel that training is important because out in the field you never hear why we do things. It’s always 'do this or that because your boss or the prints say so.' The training gives students a chance to learn why they are doing it that way; why the engineer designed it that way.”
His primary teaching philosophies are:
‘When one teaches, two learn.’ –Robert Heinlein
‘A good teacher is one who makes himself progressively unnecessary.’ –Thomas Carruthers