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San Joaquin Valley College Blog

Wired for Success: Richie Weathington’s Journey from Apprentice to Passing the General Electrician’s Certification Exam

March 12, 2024

Richie Weathington had been chipping away at a career as an electrician for almost ten years and had racked up a lot of online classes and work experience along the way. But he wanted to be a certified electrician which could position him to progress to the upper ranks of his industry – and he wanted the physical in-class experience that would give him maximum hands-on learning to help him get there.

Most of all Richie wanted the big jobs – the high-rise, build from the ground up projects that attracted the best of the best. From all appearances, he stuck his landing.


Why did you choose SJVC’s Electrical Technology (ET) program?

I was focused on studying for my General Electrician’s Certification Exam and I didn’t want to do the online thing. SJVC would be very involved in helping me prepare for the test*. They provide worksheets based on the NEC code book (National Electrical Code) and they give you that book to work out of for installation, codes, wiring, sizing for commercial and residential buildings.

SJVC’s ET program was two days a week in class and two days online. I stopped working to do this full-time.


How did you get into the Electrical field?

I went to work right out of high school, training on-the-job. I started out not knowing anything and was able to work my way up. But if you’re an apprentice and don’t have certification, you have to have 150 hours a year of schooling. I did all that online and the State tracks it.

But that’s why I decided to go to school full time and just get this out of the way. The in as few as 10-month accelerated program at SJVC provides that training.


Was this career field a good choice for you?

I really like being hands-on with things and once I started working on different projects – some on a very large scale – I kind of just fell in love with it. Just seeing what goes on in the process of building something, watching pipefitters, iron workers; I really liked being part of that, pulling all the wires, hooking up meters/sensors and running conduit.


What motivated you to take this big career step-up?

My uncle Albert got me into this trade. I see how hard he works and how I could make good money and connections. I wanted to set goals, work toward a better paying job, more money, and a better life.

In my opinion, this ET program was the best way to prepare for my General Electrician’s Certification Exam.


What was your Electrical Technology (ET) class like?

It was kind of crazy going through school with all this experience I’d had. Most of the students were fresh in the trade, which was cool for me because I got to teach a little bit and offer my explanation of things. I also learned things I didn’t really know before.

Hands-on experience was important. A lot of guys in our class were not going to get it until they actually did it. That’s why we had labs where we would troubleshoot motors, wire switches to lights, also did some panel wiring and bending conduit.


What was one of your favorite learning experiences?

Definitely PLCs (Programmable Logic Controllers). I’d had experience wiring up these things, but never on the other side of programming. PLC is the latest hi-tech equipment you can work with – and it’s everywhere now. You can program through a computer a motor or machine to read things passing by on a conveyor belt that directs where it goes, how it’s handled.

The best thing that happened to me was the PLC section and I tried to learn everything I could in that class.


What did you struggle with?

Blueprints; I didn’t fully understand. There was a lot of homework and our main teacher had to take time off. I had a hard time communicating with our substitute teacher, but we worked through it, and I got a good grade at the end of it.


Did you get the instructor support you needed?

I had great teachers who were able to explain things in a really good way – especially for the rest of the class. When things didn’t make sense, Mr. Lozano and Mr. Martinez were there to explain it.

The program and instructors also give you time to study and prep for the exam. Different classes teach different areas of what you need to know as an electrician and different areas of residential, commercial and industrial electrical.


Any surprises?

I’d never been crazy about school and didn’t usually get over a 2.0 GPA. But at SJVC I put in a lot of work and was an Honor Roll student. The whole thing of being in school…I loved it. It was like, ‘OK, cool, I get to go to school today.’ It was also a chance to have some ‘me’ time.


Did you have the support you needed at home?

My wife, Leticia and kids Maddox and Nyah kept me pushing forward. My biggest motivation was giving them the best life possible.

What was the outcome of your General Electrician’s Certification?

They give you 4 hours for a 110-question test. I finished with 8 minutes left.  They sit you down on the spot while the computer generates your pass-or-fail grade. I passed! It was super exciting to see everything fall into place the way I planned it a year earlier. My family went out to dinner to celebrate.


Where did you land after completing your ET program?

I started my new job as an electrician for Tri Bay Electric the month after I completed SJVC’s ET program.

It’s a five-story office building we’re doing from the ground up. It’s really just a big hole in the ground and I’m running temporary power for the cranes to begin to build. I’m excited that for the next couple of years I’ll be building this. Right now, it’s just me and the foreman and we’ve already done the underground conduit; next, we’ll be doing the wire pull for the sky crane.

I’m really thankful to be thrown into this project.


What advice would you give to others considering education toward a career in this field?

Education is the most important thing, and it’s what is going to get you paid. If possible, go to school then go to work. It’s a really big advantage to not have to go to school and work at the same time.

Electrical is such a broad field; just go in with a good attitude and expect to learn more to narrow it down. They give you the tools in school to prepare for any direction. College kept me on track, my nose in the books and my mind in learning mode. It definitely prepped me for what’s going on now.


What is your vision for the future?

If it goes the way I want it to, this is where I want to retire. I’ll be in the union for the next 30 or so years, then good benefits, good pension. The guys in Union 617 have a quote: “617 Living the Dream”. That is me.


*SJVC prepares students to take appropriate certification and licensure exams related to their individual majors. The College does not guarantee students will successfully pass these exams or be certified or licensed as a result of completing the Electrical Technology program.



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