Calif. program finally gets off the ground

More than 800 people are expected to participate in the first year
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Thursday, April 1, 2004

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Several years of work to create a security-related apprenticeship program in the state has finally paid off, with California now accepting applications from security companies that want to participate in the program.

So far, more than 49 companies have signed on to the program, which was designed when two state laws mandated certification and an apprenticeship program for people working with 100-volt amperes or more. Between 800 and 1,000 people are expected to go through the program within the first year.

George Gunning, president of the WBFAA Unilateral Apprenticeship Committee, was part of the security industry initiative to create the program. The effort also involved the California Fire Alarm Association.

“It got forced on us,” he said. “We decided to look at our future and try to protect ourselves.”

California lawmakers passed the new standards in 1999, but while the security industry new about the bills before they passed, they took on a different look in the end. Industry leaders first thought about challenging the bill in court, but instead decided to purse an apprenticeship program. In 2001, the WBFAA had a plan in place and submitted it to the state for approval.

The result is a 6,000 hour program, or the equivalent of three years of work, for apprentices. Apprentices also need to complete 560 hours of classroom time.

Those already working in the field and holding a C-10 contractors license are required by state law to pass a certification exam.

Bay Alarm, one of the state’s largest alarm companies, is among the initial group of companies to sign onto the program. The company has operated its own in-house training program for several years and plans to continue with that program, along with tapping into the apprenticeship program, said Shane Clary, vice president of codes and standards compliance for Bay Alarm.

“Right now we have about 40 employees that meet the requirement to take the exam,” said Clary. “Initially we’re not affected, but because of attrition and people retiring and as we grow the company, we’re going to need new technicians. We can either hire them away from firms that have them certified or put people just coming into the company through the program.”

It’s been a long haul to get an apprenticeship program into place, said Gunning, but the program should benefit the California security industry. “It opens up an avenue for us to go to high schools, trade schools and for people to get an occupation,” he said. “We’ve never been able to build a labor pool.”