Reclamation Celebrates Graduates of the Power System Electrical Apprenticeship Program at Hoover Dam

Written by: Daniella Grabish

Pictured are the Power System Electrical Apprenticeship graduates at Hoover Dam. Photo provided by Daniella Grabish.
Pictured are the Power System Electrical Apprenticeship graduates at Hoover Dam. Photo provided by Daniella Grabish.
On August 8, the most recent class of Hoover Dam’s Power System Electrician Apprentices — Corinna Wittig, Chris Hanson, Dustin Shigematsu, Richard Stewart and Paul Valdez — graduated from their four-year program, becoming journeyman electricians. The graduates have earned certificates from the Department of Labor, Nevada State Apprenticeship Council and the Lower Colorado Dams Office, along with this highly anticipated graduation ceremony. To the delight of all present, including upper management, family members and well-wishing coworkers, the ceremony was a capstone celebration of the graduates’ accomplishments and expression of gratitude to their families, leaders and instructors.

The program they completed is structured to train employees to be competent journeyman maintenance workers using various training formats. According to Supervisory Apprentice Coordinator, Randy Argote, the Apprenticeship Training Group coordinates and provides the education and training functions for three separate apprentice groups consisting of Power Plant Operators, Power System Electricians and Hydroelectric Mechanics. These rigorous programs produce skilled journeymen, ensuring reliable operation and maintenance of the Lower Colorado Region’s hydroelectric facilities.

Apprenticeships are important to Hoover Dam. They meet both the immediate hiring needs of the power plant and the educational needs of the apprentices. Himself a graduate of a previous class, Foreman I Power System Electrician Training Leader Lee Holt says, “It’s been very difficult throughout the industry to get people with the experience and the training that you need to be able to step right in and do the work.” He appreciates the smaller size of Hoover Dam’s apprenticeship classes. The training equips employees who will go on to do the work for years to come. Holt’s advice to the next class of apprentices is this, “Four years is a long time. Understand the things that are within your control and stay focused.”

The next apprenticeship opportunity is expected to open in the spring of 2020. In addition to training, personal experiences draw new students into the apprenticeship programs at Hoover Dam. Of her experience, Corinna Wittig explains that she was in an administrative position when she applied for the program. She was looking for a career that would be “gratifying … where I could see the work that I [am] doing.” While she notes the difficulty of the “culture shock of being one of the very few women [apprentices],” she also cheers the confidence that comes from success in learning so much. About entering the program, she declares, “I had ZERO experience … I knew nothing.” Looking back, she concludes, “At one point I didn’t think I was going to be able to understand what was going on around me, but now … it’s second-nature.” This is proof of the program’s success and a student’s commitment to completing the program of study. Wittig’s advice to incoming apprentices: “Don’t give up. It doesn’t matter what challenges you face, do not give up.”

Published on September 10, 2019