National Electrical Contractors Association: The voice of the electrical construction industry
The National Electrical Contractors Association’s (NECA) mission has been more than 100 years in the making. For more than a century, NECA has been the voice of the $130 billion industry responsible for bringing electrical power, lighting and communications to buildings and communities across the United States. It has built a reputation as a dynamic national organization serving the varied interests of the entire electrical contracting industry.
NECA traces its origins to the birth of modern electricity. In 1901, a group of electrical contractors met at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, N.Y., where a major display of electric power had been installed. These contractors joined together to foster trade and reform abuses within their fledgling industry. Today, NECA continues their work, building on a legacy of protecting the public and making innovation possible.
John Grau, NECA’s CEO, said the association was initially interested in areas such as codes and standards and safety issues. But its mission grew to incorporate labor relations and advocacy work in Washington, D.C. There have been significant milestones along the way. One of the first came in the very early 1900s, when contractors began to have a say in the development of the National Electrical Code. Union organizations began to rise in the 1920s, which resulted in the creation of the Council on Industrial Relations and a more nuanced look at labor relations. A successful push to keep electrical contracting separate from general contracting followed during World War II. Then, in the 1950s, NECA started providing support to members by developing educational courses and marketing services.
In the 1980s, a foundation was formed to do research for the electrical contracting industry. The Foundation for Electrical Construction, known as ELECTRI International, was established in 1988 by the governors of NECA. The purpose of the foundation is to promote research done by premiere individuals which will allow electrical contractors to keep up to date with the current trends of their industry. Every year the ELECTRI Council meets to hand-select the research projects that they feel will be most beneficial to the electrical contracting industry.
Electrical contractors perform specialized construction work related to the design, installation and maintenance of electrical systems. Whether high-voltage power transmission or low-voltage lighting, electrical contractors ensure these systems work in a safe, effective and environmentally sound manner. NECA represents electrical contractors from firms of all sizes performing a range of services. While most NECA contractors qualify as small businesses, many large multi-state companies are also members of the association.
NECA’s national staff works at the association’s headquarters in Bethesda, Md. and four regional offices around the country. NECA’s 119 local chapters are independently chartered organizations which work with national field representatives to develop effective labor agreements and market initiatives. “NECA members are the movers and shakers,” Grau said. “They tend to be more progressive. They value quality and service. Many times, they’re giving as much as they’re taking.”
Technological advances have improved NECA’s delivery of products and services to its members. “When you can’t always see people face-to-face, that is important,” Grau said. “A good example is our app development company. It allows our members to stay informed on the latest industry developments through their cell phones and tablets.”
Education is a top priority for NECA. Each year, NECA offers more than 100 management and technical workshops through its chapters. The new Basic Foremanship course is NECA’s first blended learning offering, which encompasses both online and in-seat components. NECA also works on initiatives with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), based in Washington, D.C. The Electrical Training Alliance, a NECA/IBEW partnership, trains a highly skilled workforce of apprentice and journeymen electricians in all facets of electrical work from theory to installation with a focus on safety.
An area where NECA and its members are breaking new ground is with green initiatives. One green initiative undertaken by NECA is the Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Training Partnership. EVITP provides training and certification for electricians throughout the U.S. through a network of electrical industry training centers and community colleges. The program offers comprehensive curriculum, developed with partners in the electric vehicle industry, through two 24-hour courses covering residential, commercial, public and fleet installation best practices.
NECA is also committed to helping the industry’s next generation. One example is the ELECTRI International/NECA Green Energy Challenge, which marks a yearly highlight for NECA’s 32 student chapters. Teams agree that the popular event is stimulating because it makes them focus on problem solving by thinking in new, creative ways.
NECA’s student chapters form teams that demonstrate their ability to analyze particular electrical construction management “problems” outlined for them and create a comprehensive plan and budget for an appropriate retrofit. A jury of contractors and industry partners evaluate written proposals. The top three student teams are then invited to NECA’s annual convention to make oral presentations of their projects. The jury evaluates both the substance and the presentation. Electrical construction companies and industry partners looking to hire the best and brightest students in the country appreciate the opportunity to assess the finalists’ work firsthand during the convention. ELECTRI International provides financial awards to the winning school and assists with the cost of bringing the three finalist teams to the convention.
NECA takes a multi-pronged approach when it comes to marketing strategies. That includes producing video pieces for NECA Newscast and ElectricTV. NECA is able to reach a much larger audience utilizing social media such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. “We’re always trying to promote the services of our members,” Grau said. NECA’s Find a Contractor website (necaconnection.org) is one way to search for a NECA contractor by geographic area, type of work performed, project size and other criteria.
As in every industry, challenges remain for NECA and its members. Those challenges include economic growth and workforce development. Grau foresees a surge in electrical projects coming over the next few years. It will be important, he says, to get workers the training they need and recruit them from other sectors, including the military.
Grau expects big things for NECA’s future. Energy conservation is at the forefront. The NECA Energy Conservation and Performance Platform (ECAP) removes the obstacles to the implementation of members’ energy retroﬁt projects by seamlessly integrating the inclusion of best-practice project surety, project finance structuring, and project funding solutions into a project development process.
NECA contractors are experts at the top of their field, and they employ the most highly trained and reliable workforce in the industry. They know the latest technology. They take the time to understand a business’s unique needs, and they find the innovative solutions to meet those needs. They strive to get their jobs done right the first time, on time, without disrupting business.