Less than six months are left for electricians to become certified in order to continue working in California without one-on-one supervision. This mandatory certification program is a result of Assembly Bill 1087, signed by then-Governor Gray Davis in May 2002. It requires electricians to become certified by Jan. 1, 2005.

The purpose of the legislation is to raise the professional level of electricians and to thereby improve safety. An applicant may apply for certification as a General Electrician, Residential Electrician, Voice Data Video Technician, Fire/Life Safety Technician, or Nonresidential Lighting Technician.

To be certified, an electrician must pass a computerized certification examination and have completed either an approved apprenticeship program or have on-the-job experience ranging from 2,000 to 8,000 hours, depending on the certification for which one is applying.

The only electrical apprenticeship programs approved by the California Apprenticeship Council are administered by the Western Electrical Contractors Association (WECA, nonunion), Associated Builders and Contractors (nonunion) and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (union). WECA has opined that it is extremely unlikely that the union-dominated California Apprenticeship Council will recognize a need for additional programs.

Fees are $75 to apply for the test and $100 to take the computerized certification test. There are 50 to 100 multiple-choice questions, depending on which certification is being sought. Tests are taken on computers, and there are eight test sites: San Francisco, San Diego, Fresno, Fremont, Rancho Cordova, Van Nuys, Cerritos, and Colton.

Certifications must be renewed every three years. To be eligible for renewed certification, an applicant must have 32 hours of electrical continuing education relevant to the type of certification and must certify that he or she has worked 2,000 hours in the industry in the previous three years. An electrician who allows his certification to lapse must retake the certification exam.

Holders of C-10 electrical contractor licenses, who are working under the license, do not need to be certified. An electrician with a C-10 license working under someone else with a C-10 license, however, must be certified. After January 1, 2005, an uncertified electrician may continue to work only if the person is registered with the Division of Apprenticeship Standards, completes or is enrolled in an approved curriculum of classroom instruction, and his or her employer attests that the person works under the direct supervision of a certified electrician who is responsible for supervising no more than one uncertified person.

As of June 2004, approximately 10,000 people had applied for the certification program, but only 5,400 have taken the exam, with a passage rate of about 88 percent.

The major concern within the industry is that most electricians will not be certified by the January 1, 2005 deadline. The National Electrical Contractors Association, a union contractor trade association that co-sponsored the bills requiring testing and certification, said there are 75,000 electricians in California. This leaves nearly 70,000 electricians in the state who need to take the test before the deadline. One contractor said, "If the law is enforced, the industry will be starving for electricians."

Assembly Bill 1719, signed by then-Governor Davis in October 2003, allows the California Apprenticeship Council to delay the deadline for testing and certification by up to two years beyond the January 1, 2005 deadline. So far, the council has not taken any action to delay the deadline for testing and certification.

For more information, visit www.dir.ca.gov/das/das.html.

Publication date: 08/23/2004