As a quick primer, in California an applicant for a contractor's license must have at least 4 years of experience in the class he/she is applying for to qualify to take the license examination. Credit for experience is given only for experience at a journeyman level or as a foreman, supervising employee, contractor, or owner-builder. An applicant may also receive credit for technical training, apprenticeship training, or education toward the 4 years of required practical experience. At least 1 year must be practical experience.
All experience claimed must be verified by a qualified and responsible person, such as a homeowner, an employer, fellow employee, other journeyman, contractor, union representative, building inspector, architect, or engineer. This person must have firsthand knowledge of the applicant's experience -- he/she must have observed the work that was performed -- and he/she must complete the experience certification portion of the application. The applicant must also provide written documentation of any training or education claimed in place of experience. Acceptable documentation includes copies of apprenticeship certificates and college transcripts. In addition, the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) will require the applicant to provide a certification of his/her experience and may require the applicant to furnish additional documentation of any experience claimed on the application -- failure to provide this documentation will result in rejection of the application or denial of the license.
For purposes of determining the applicant's year's of experience: A "journeyman" is a "person who has completed an apprenticeship program or is an experienced worker, not a trainee, and is fully qualified and able to perform the trade without supervision." A "foreman" or "supervisor" is a "person who has the knowledge and skill of a journeyman and directly supervises physical construction." A "contractor" is a "person who manages the daily activities of a construction business, including field supervision." An "owner-builder" is a "person who has the knowledge and skills of a journeyman and who performs work on his or her own property."
On December 4, 2013, the CSLB will be hosting a live event and webcast to explain how it verifies a license applicant's journey-level work experience. To join in person, go to the John C. Hall Hearing Room at the Contractors State License Board Headquarters located at 9821 Business Park Drive, Sacramento, CA 95827. To watch the live stream webcast, join the CSLB at www.cslb.ca.gov.
For additional information about what constitutes "journey-level experience," the CSLB has posted Frequently Asked Questions About Journey-level Experience on its website. It explains, in part, that "[j]ourney-level experience applies to a person who has completed an apprenticeship program or is an experienced worker, not a trainee, and is fully qualified and able to perform a specific trade without supervision. However, that person does not have a license and is not able to contract for jobs that are more than $500 in labor and materials."
The CSLB's FAQ also notes that "[a]n "Apprenticeable Occupation" is one that requires independent judgment and the application of manual, mechanical, technical, or professional skills. It is best learned through an organized system of on-the-job training, together with related and supplemental instruction." The California Department of Industrial Relations' (DIR) website provides additional information on apprentice skills and programs. It explains, in part, that "[a]pprenticeship is a system of learning while earning, and 'learning by doing.' It combines training on the job with related and supplemental instruction at school. Today, it is utilized chiefly in the skilled crafts." The DIR's website also hosts a searchable database for available apprenticeship programs and for registered apprentices.