DWR’s Apprenticeship Program Celebrates 50 Years of Success


Image of DWR Hydroelectric Plant Electrician Stephanie Ruane,

Image of DWR Hydroelectric Plant Electrician Stephanie Ruane, a former participant of DWR's Apprenticeship Program now employed as a journey level electrician.

Since the inception of the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) Operation and Maintenance apprentice program in 1971, 581 apprentices have graduated from the program, which guarantees jobs as journey level electricians, mechanics, operators or utility craftsworkers at DWR facilities throughout the state.

“For five decades, the DWR Apprentice Program has been the start of a rewarding career in the hydroelectric industry for many while providing DWR a workforce that is ready to run the State Water Project,” said David Duval, head of DWR’s Division of Operations and Maintenance. “The apprentices that work at SWP facilities throughout California and earn a career are key to the SWP being successful in providing a reliable water supply to more than 27 million Californians.”

The paid program combines hands-on learning, classroom learning, and at-home study with supervised training at one of DWR’s State Water Project facilities.

Today, DWR’s workforce consists of many apprentice graduates, including Armand Jones, Darren Choyce, and Gina House.

The apprentice program opened the door to a 38-year DWR career for Armand Jones, who graduated in 1991 as a hydroelectric plant electrician at San Joaquin Field Division, where he currently works.

“I’ve helped many co-workers, leads, supervisors, superintendents, many apprentices over the years with my knowledge,” Jones said. “With that said, I’ve helped move a lot of water during my career. The best part of being in the program was being able to work in the plants.”

The apprentice program allowed Darren Choyce, who graduated in 1994, to gain hands-on experience in his field of study.

“Going through the apprenticeship has allowed me to learn my craft starting from the bottom and given me the ability to pass that knowledge on to others that are also new to the craft,” said Choyce, who is now the Operations and Maintenance Assistant Division Chief.

Gina House joined DWR as an operator apprentice 26 years ago after being inspired by her mom, an AT&T lineman, who showed her that any career is possible if you stick to it.

“The best part of the apprentice program was learning the job itself and being around and working with all this big machinery and high voltage,” said House, a hydroelectric plant operations superintendent at Oroville Field Division. “The program gave me access to other apprentices from other field divisions and water agencies and created great friendships that have lasted throughout my time here.”

History of the DWR Apprentice Program

When the program first began in 1971, there were six operator apprentices and a one-room classroom in the field division’s administration building in Bakersfield. By 1978, the program grew to include mechanics and electricians in addition to operators.

To allow for the apprentice program’s educational opportunities to expand more with additional and varied training, a new home headquartered at San Joaquin Field Division in Bakersfield was completed in 1994.

Today, there are 30 courses depending on the trade that are part of the program. Training courses include gas and arc welding; motors and generators; pumps, bearings and turbines; hydraulics; heavy equipment; and environmental awareness.

Apprentices can receive college credit for most of the courses in the program.

Visit our DWR Apprentice Program webpage for more information about the program, including how to apply.