According to the Workforce Survey from Baywork, Bay Area utilities will need aboutt 828 new workers over the next three years in the electrical, mechanics and instrumentation categories. Electrical Instrumentation techs is one of the most in demand practice areas in our profession . Every agency is looking for one it seems.
The water sector is competing with other adjacent sectors for talent. High demand, quicker job offers from the private sector and higher wages outside the water sector means fewer workers are available to fill these jobs. According to the survey, 92% of utilities are having difficulty hiring electricians and instrumentation techs.
We interviewed CWEA Member Dave Williams, Electrician 2 and Electrical Instrumentation Grade II certificate holder with the City of Vacaville on how he entered the profession and the passion behind his career move into wastewater.
How did you enter the profession?
I went into the Navy and became an electrician. First came years of schooling, then came years of practical application on an aircraft carrier as an electrician, where the electrical controls training and work began. I took Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) course work at the Junior College and Variable Frequency Drives (VFD) with course training and practical application.
I was working for Korbel at the time and used all of the skills mentioned as an electrician working on high speed bottling lines and conveyors. I was then lucky enough to work for a winery equipment manufacturer by the name of P&L Specialty’s running and building the U.L. 508 certified controls for various equipment they were manufacturing.
How did you hear about it or know about it?
I had taken water treatment courses at the junior college and nothing was there for the electrical person. I knew everything runs on electricity but could not find any courses for the wastewater industry.
I applied for a position as a SCADA technician and so did 150 other people. After 5 interviews, it was down to just two of us and I had not actually been a SCADA technician before. Thus, I did not get the job.
Shorty thereafter, the Sonoma County Water agency had a one year temp electrician instrumentation opening. I applied and did one interview and got the job. I had found someone to take a chance on me.
I then joined CWEA and passed the Electrical Instrumentation Grade II test and got certified. Unfortunately, after one year at the Sonoma County Water agency there were no more openings and a hiring freeze.
That was a tough blow, because in my mind I had found a home. I loved that place, personnel and that type of work. Not to mention great pay!
During my last month at Sonoma, another full time Electrician II position came open in Vacaville. I was now certified by CWEA and had the experience which landed me the job.
What would you say to a young electrician interested in getting into the water profession? What are the steps?
Keep working and learning. Apply for everything. We have all this wine work around here that uses a lot of this type of equipment. Get a job there first.
Why is it a career worth pursuing?
This career can pay six figures a year and gives you good benefits and a retirement.
How does it feel to work in one of the most in-demand water careers these days?
It is hard to find and keep good electrical and instrumentation people. There are always chances to move up and make more money.
There really is a shortage of qualified people.
What are some of the perks for working in this line of work?
The money, benefits and retirement. I work a four-day work week and have all the overtime I want.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I would like to be training incoming electrical instrumentation techs.