Episcopal News Service] A couple of years after Valeria Lucas graduated from high school in 2013, she considered following in her father’s footsteps and took some electrical courses at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College in California. She was one of only a couple of women in those classes — the remaining dozens of students all were men.
Despite feeling intimidated at times, Lucas “became a lot more comfortable just being in an environment that is male-dominated.”
Lucas’ father, Alberto Lucas, still works as an electrician. For several years, he’d been offering to teach electrical work to younger people at his parish, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in the Hollywood neighborhood of Los Angeles. He finally can now, thanks to a $20,000 grant from Episcopal-affiliated Girls’ Friendly Society California, part of an international organization within the Anglican Communion. The organization’s grant program supports local churches and organizations to provide personal development programming for young girls.
St. Stephen’s is using the grant to fund its newly launched Firefly program, which will teach girls ages 14 to 17 the fundamentals of electrical work in a hands-on setting one Saturday a month over the next two years. The program started on Oct. 14, but enrollment is still open. Alberto Lucas, a St. Stephen’s parishioner for more than 20 years, is the program’s lead instructor. Valeria Lucas, who’s a teacher at the church’s Delaney Wright Fine Arts Preschool, is the program’s co-coordinator and the interpreter for her father, whose primary language is Spanish.
“Part of our goal is to give the girls not only the physical, working tools to make them more comfortable to work in the field, but also just how to handle those tools, how to drill something, how to feel comfortable, eventually moving up to one of those classes where it is going to be a male-dominated space because that’s at least where we’re starting,” Valeria Lucas told Episcopal News Service.
The Firefly program will address different topics every month, including electricity fundamentals, different wiring methods, emergency power equipment, lighting types, safety and more.
The Rev. Jaime Edwards-Acton, rector of St. Stephen’s, told ENS the Firefly program aims to teach girls electricity basics while they’re teenagers, so that they are knowledgeable and confident enough to join a full-time program and become an electrician apprentice when they’re 18, the youngest age to qualify for an apprenticeship in California. Or if they choose not to pursue a career in electrical work, they will possess skills that could benefit them in other fields, such as electrical engineering. Even if they decide to pursue an entirely unrelated career field, completing the Firefly program provides credentials for college and job applications because of the amount of mathematics and discipline electrical work requires.
“We’re trying to catch these girls at ages so that when they finish high school, they have solid opportunities, whether it’s college or something else,” Edwards-Acton said. “I think the average wage for electricians will be really appealing for a lot of these young women.”
In 2022, the mean annual pay for electricians in California was $78,140, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. California has the highest employment level for electricians in the United States. When comparing metropolitan areas in the country, Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim is second only to New York-Newark-New Jersey in employment for electricians.
Edwards-Acton also mentioned that demand for electricians is growing in California, especially in the Hollywood area, citing the increase in solar panel installations and the need for electrical work related to Los Angeles preparing for and hosting the 2028 Summer Olympics. IBEW Local 11, the greater Los Angeles chapter of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers labor union, currently serves as an adviser on sustainability for the city’s Olympics committee.
“We are looking to create a pipeline so that the girls will benefit from our program and then have somewhere else to continue their education, if that’s something that they choose to do,” Valeria Lucas said.
With the money granted by the Girls’ Friendly Society California, the Firefly program also will include occasional field trips to local places to learn more about electrical work in a hands-on setting, including the local IBEW chapter’s training center in a nearby chamber of commerce. Occasionally, participants also will listen to guest speakers talk about the electrical industry.
The Firefly program is currently accepting applications. The cost to participate is $50 for two years, and scholarships are available. St. Stephen’s will provide safety equipment. Being a parishioner of St. Stephen’s isn’t required to participate.
-Shireen Korkzan is a reporter and assistant editor for Episcopal News Service. She can be reached at email@example.com.