All The Latest News from NECA

Oct 04

Education Pioneer Sal Khan Talks About His Global Vision for Learning

Sal Khan, founder and CEO of Khan Academy, a global nonprofit with the mission of providing free, high-quality education to “anyone, anywhere” in the world, shared his vision for learning at the Opening General Session NECA 2015 San Francisco on Sunday.

The impetus of Khan Academy started about 10 years ago, when Khan heard from an aunt that his cousin was having trouble understanding certain math concepts.

“She had become convinced she didn’t have the math gene,” Khan said.

Soon, after he got off work, Khan started doing lessons with his cousin through instant messaging and she started to improve. He started tutoring other cousins as well. Scheduling conflicts led Khan to posting lessons on YouTube and it grew from there.

A hedge fund analyst with degrees from MIT and Harvard, Khan ultimately decided to quit his job and pursue his work in education. But it wasn’t without doubts. He received $100,000 from a key backer early on, which helped him get things off the ground.

Then, he got noticed by Bill Gates. And Google reached out. That momentum enabled Khan to get office space and start building a team.

Khan said Khan Academy is set up similar to the way you play a video game. You have to master one level before you can move to the next, and you can’t ignore the gaps in knowledge.

Khan Academy’s website now provides self-pacing software and unlimited access to over 5,100 instructional videos on its YouTube channel covering everything from basic arithmetic to college-level science and economics. It’s the most-used library of educational videos on the web, with 10 million unique users per month, more than 300 million lessons delivered, and over 1.4 billion exercises completed.

Khan Academy is based in Mountain View, California, with about 100 full-time engineers and educators. Some students have become interns and, in some cases, full-time employees.

“In a bizarre way, we’re solving our own labor problem,” Khan said.

Khan said he feels like the world is at a special time in history. Education, he hopes, is becoming more like food and shelter, a “fundamental human right.”

Before Khan took the stage, conventioneers heard from NECA President David A. Hardt. Hardt said leaders have made a lot of progress moving the industry forward and told those in the audience to ask their chapter governors for updates.

Hardt also mentioned the Value of Membership Task Force and the important work it is doing.

“NECA provides tremendous value, but many of our members don’t knoe what’s available to them,” he said.

He added the greater participation will ensure that members’ needs are met.

“We’re a great association,” he said. “Thank you for your support.”

Former NECA President Dennis F. Quebe later provided an update on the Academy of Electrical Contracting and its recent progress. Thirteen new inductees were introduced and installed.

Alex Owen, chairman of NECA’s Political Leadership Council, also shared remarks and encouraged members to be engaged to make sure their voice is heard.

Sep 28

Opening General Session: Chris Gardner on the Pursuit of Happyness

Philanthropist and best-selling author Chris Gardner spoke powerfully about his hardships and dealings with homelessness during Sunday morning’s Opening General Session at NECA Chicago 2014.


Gardner, the subject of book and blockbuster movie “The Pursuit of Happyness,” told the audience he was the leading authority on a concept he called “spiritual genetics.” He talked about his background and his relationships with his parents and grandmother.

Gardner paid credit to his mother for telling him he could go anything in life.

“The wit, the wisdoms, the lessons she shared with me made everything else possible,” he said.

Gardner said film based on his life, in which he is portrayed by Will Smith, was about a man wanting to give his son what he never had had. “And, to me, that’s priceless,” he said, detailing his involvement in the project, which grossed more than $300 million worldwide.

Gardner, currently working on a new book, recalled meeting Nelson Mandela and Muhammad Ali and conversations with Oprah Winfrey and President Clinton.

“Find your button,” the thing that ignites a passion in your life, he urged the audience. “You can’t change something until you own it.”

Hope is great, Gardner added, but having a plan is what’s important. And a person’s ultimate asset is time.

Gardner now has a 28-year-old son and a 22-year-old daughter and a 6-year-old granddaughter. He counts himself among the biggest supporters of food banks.

“The greatest honor that you will have in your life is to have someone say, ‘I’ll be here,’” Gardner said. “If you’ve been there for me, I’ll be there for you.”

Before Gardner spoke, NECA President Dennis Quebe summarized the association’s accomplishments. It was his final address to NECA in the post saying, “NECA continues to be well-connected to what is happening around the country. It is up to the industry to wisely implement the tools at its disposal.”

Later, NECA 2014 Political Leadership Council National Chairman David Nielson gave a brief update on the activities of the PLC and the Electrical Construction Political Action Committee (ECPAC).

Finally, former President Rex Ferry, chair of the Academy of Electrical Contracting, updated the session on the academy’s progress. Sixteen new fellows also were introduced. Look out for a special blog post highlighting the new inductees shortly!

Aug 29

Just Announced – Stuart Diamond Will Be Labor Relations General Session Speaker

Negotiator-extraordinaire Stuart Diamond impressed attendees at this year’s Labor Relations Conference so much that NECA has invited him to lead the special Labor Relations Generation Session in Las Vegas.

You’ll actually have two chances to hear Diamond on Monday, Oct. 1: his management workshop/consulting session, Getting More Every Day, from 8-9:50 a.m., and the General Session, starting at 10 a.m. Diamond will focus on the problems and prospects of emerging markets and international business challenges in an environment of change from his latest bestseller, Getting More.

Diamond’s Getting More presentation discusses how the business world is notoriously perceived as combative, dominated by an aggressive conflict model of negotiation. However, Diamond shows how moving from this combative model provides a massive advantage. Counter-intuitive to its core, his process focuses on finding and valuing the other party’s emotions and perceptions to create far more value. In this presentation, you’ll learn how to ask questions of the other party, glean the “pictures in their heads” and ultimately, persuade them. Armed with new persuasive power, you and your business will be more competitive than ever before.

Diamond is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, author, Wharton Business School professor and president of the Global Strategy Group. In addition to advising corporate and government leaders in more than 40 countries on negotiation and cultural diversity, Diamond’s negotiation course at Wharton is consistently ranked as one of the school’s most popular. He has taught negotiation at Harvard Law School, from which he holds a law degree and is a former Associate Director of the Harvard Negotiation Project.

As president of Global Strategy Group, Diamond advises companies and governments on negotiating foreign investment and devising strategies, structures and marketing to compete effectively on an international scale – essentially the skills of planning and persuasion – for some of the world’s leading companies.

Diamond will sign copies of his latest book on negotiation, the New York Times bestseller Getting More, following the General Session.

Aug 12

Guest Post: Do Red Sox Count as PPE?

by Michael Johnston, NECA Executive Director of Standards and Safety

Amazing how fast the 2010 NECA convention is approaching. It’s hard to believe it will be here in just a couple months. What always impresses me about the NECA convention is the amount of valuable information for our members and the industry, on top of some of the best social events and networking opportunities in the industry.

Being born and raised in the New England area, I maintain a continuous following of the Boston Red Sox and wouldn’t you know it, this convention has been coordinated to allow attendees to experience a contest between old rivals – the NY Yankees and Red Sox ! The opening reception at Jillian’s should be a great time for all with plenty of entertainment, food and drink, and yes, cheering on the Sox next door with a great view of all the action at Fenway Park.

Being so active in electrical safety and training related to codes and standards, I was totally impressed in the line-up of offerings put together for this NECA convention. It seems NECA just builds on this year after year.

What is really exciting is the expansion of programs being offered that address the outside line industry. I’m really looking forward to the programs on the ETD Partnership Best Practices, EEI’s Electrical Contractor Safety Initiative Program and NJATC’s Outside Line Construction Training Program. Wow! NECA is even providing an OSHA 10 course for the outside line workers. So not only will these attendees get to take in the excellent trade show exhibitors, they can gain training credits needed by completion of this training program.

The 2011 National Electrical Code® is scheduled to be published in September of this year. NECA has left no stone unturned as far as bringing the latest and greatest information that provides exceptional educational value for attendees. I’m so excited to be teaming with Jim Dollard to provide a 4-hour session that highlights the significant changes that have been accepted in the 2011 NEC.

The general sessions are outstanding this year and promise to provide all the inspiration one could manage. The undersea exploration presentation by Dr. Ballard and the sharing of Michael Durant’s experiences will intrigue us all. Based on past experiences, the labor relations session once again, promises to take on difficult issues and provide valuable insight into ways to meet the challenges we face in daily operations.

I mentioned the social events, keynote speakers, training events, and networking opportunities, but I was also really blown away at entertainment provided at this NECA convention closing celebration. A tribute to the Beatles music couldn’t be more appropriate or popular, in my opinion, but then again, I love Beatles music! The Fab Four: A Tribute to the Beatles will be performing at the NECA and will certainly provide all the musical entertainment that the all can relate to.

Without question, NECA has pulled out all the stops as far as assembling the functions for this year’s convention and trade show. I’m so excited to be part of it and look forward to seeing you there at the NECA Show!

Sep 15

2009 Award Winners and Erik Weihenmayer at Closing General Session

The 2009 NECA national award winners were recognized at this morning’s closing general session. (There’s a list of winners below this post.) We also heard from NECA CEO John Grau, ELECTRI Council Chairman Bob Mike Mazzeo, and President Rex Ferry.

Blind adventurer Erik Weihenmayer offered today’s keynote speech. He shared some great stories about his quest to climb the world’s seven highest summits – a quest made even more challenging by his lack of sight.

“You can’t retreat and just focus on survival when times are tough,” he told attendees. “I believe there is something inside each of us – a light that feeds on frustration and setbacks. And it’s that light that gives us the power to be stronger and better.”

Weihenmayer likened his own pioneering spirit to the work done by NECA contractors. “You have to embrace new ways of doing more with less and transforming how you do business. The adventure lies in building new strategies.

“There’s a direct correlation between innovation and adversity,” he continued. “You have to square off with adversity to achieve greatness.”

2009 NECA Award Winners

Coggeshall Award: Ben W. Nevers, Sr.

Comstock Award: Dillard R. “Rod” Borden

James H. McGraw Award: Max L. Landon

NECA Association Executive Distinguished Service Award: Robert G. LaLumiere

ELECTRI International Wendt Award: Jack McCormick, McCormick Systems and Giovanni Marcelli, Accubid

Sep 14

Working Together: Local LMCCs in the Spotlight at Labor Relations Special Session

Today’s special session on labor relations focused on the good work being done by local Labor Management Cooperation Committees around the country, and the role LMCCs have in raising market share and recruiting new talent to the industry.

Labor Relations Special General Session PanelEDIT
Rex Ferry, NECA President, John Negro, NECA Vice President, District 7, and Geary Higgins, NECA Vice President, Labor Relations, opened the session with reports on NECA’s work to improve and promote positive labor relations on the national level. NECA and the IBEW have held two joint NLMCC retreats this year, focusing on where the industry is, and where it needs to go.

“[IBEW International President] Ed Hill gets it,” Ferry said. “Together we’ve been able to create programs like the Code of Excellence and agreements to recapture small work. However, he’s not going to force anything on his members. So we have to work at the local level to make any real impact.”

To discuss those local efforts, chapter managers and contractors from the four NECA regions each described the own LMCC activities.

Jeff Collins and Dan Neal described the community outreach programs the Western Ohio LMCC has sponsored and the how they have united labor and management outside of work in service projects. “You have to include everyone,” Neal remarked. Neal also advised getting professional public relations help on communication projects. He reports that the area has seen a 12 percent increase in market share.

Dan Schaeffer and Doug Martin portrayed the St. Louis LMCC, the Electrical Connection, as the public face of the industry. The organization’s +5 homeowners protection plan led to greater involvement in community building and service projects, at the mayor’s request. “Such projects helped erase negative impressions that people had about union contractors,” Martin said.

Gary Neil and Chase Pendergraft explained the importance of both doing good work and then telling people about the good work you’ve done. Pendergraft played a radio ad that the East Tennessee LMCC produced that named the NECA member contractors who had worked in the community’s Habitat for Humanity program and how they could be trusted to do work for home and building owners, too.

Jeff Zuniga and Don Campbell reported that  Northern California LMCC efforts on meeting very specific local, regional and statewide needs. “We reach out to local school districts with information,” Campbell said. “We are the best and first resource for electrical construction information, and we do whatever it takes to things right for the client.”

Q&A followed the brief presentations, with many NECA members praised the high level of organization and collaboration the profiled LMCCs activities demonstrated.

A download of the special session slides will be available on NECA’s website following NECA 2009 Seattle.

Sep 14

What I Learned About People at Starbucks

Coffee is everywhere in Seattle, and as in most cities, Starbucks seems to dominate the market for caffeine-seekers. We had a great opportunity to hear from Howard Behar, the man who oversaw much of Starbuck’s stellar expansion, at yesterday’s opening general session.

Following his second retirement as Starbucks’ president in 2003, Behar put nearly 50 years of lessons on business leadership he’d learned into a book, It’s Not About the Coffee. He brought those insights into an industry-tailored message for NECA members.

Given the tough economy so many NECA members are currently working in, Behar’s message of putting people first was especially timely.

Behar pointed out that Starbucks made the commitment to its workforce early in the company’s history. “People are the glue that hold an organization together,” he said. “You have to care about every person in your organization, and every person you serve.”

He encouraged NECA members to define their values – the ideals that define their businesses – and then be prepared to pay the prices to remain true to those values.

One of Behar’s key points was “the person who sweeps the floor should pick the broom.” He echoed the same commitments NECA members make to workforce training and learning from other companies’ best practices, but encouraged the audience to not walk away from new ideas, especially new ideas that come from the field.

Leadership guru Howard Behar Keynotes Opening General Session
“Leading with compassion never stops,” Behar said. “As leaders, we must show we care about the people first, not protecting our own backsides. It’s a non-stop responsibility, but it’s worth it.”

What do you think about Behar’s message that real business leaders care about people? How do you show this in your own company?

Edited to Add: Check out PaulsonElectric’s tweet about the session!

Sep 13

2009 NECA Show Opens!

The NECA Show featuring over 240 exhibitors with products and services specifically for electrical contractors was unveiled today immediately following the Opening General Session. The Northwest Naval Band, sponsored by Helmets to Hardhats, opened the Show floor today with great fanfare, and thousands of attendees flooded the halls to see the latest and greatest.

NECA Show Opens to Fanfare
Couldn’t make it to Seattle? Check out over 100 products in the virtual New and Featured Product Room online. Ginger Wilson is also tweeting some of the exhibitors that catch her eye on Subscribe to her tweets today — she gets the first scope on cool prize giveaways at the booths, but you need to be on Twitter first!

Aug 05

Making Your Local LMCC Work For You: Special Labor Relations Special Session at NECA 2009 Seattle

Local Labor Management Cooperation Committee (LMCC) language is in virtually every NECA-IBEW collective bargaining agreement, but is it effective? Local LMCCs are intended to improve communications, to solve problems, to sponsor local programs, to engage in public education, to explore new joint approaches to issues that involve NECA and IBEW members and the community and the electrical construction industry.

This Labor Relations Special Session will demonstrate what can be done through a local LMCC to build your relationship with the IBEW and to create positive marketplace reaction for your chapter and individual businesses.

The Labor Relations Special Session will be Monday, Sept. 14 at 10 a.m. at the Washington State Convention and Trade Center. Make your plans to be there!

Oct 07

NECA NewsCast “Live from Chicago” – Day 4

Jennifer Brice, NECA NewsCast host, brings us an exclusive peak into the Labor Relations focused general session. On stage were IBEW International President, Ed Hill and NECA’s VP of Labor Relations, Geary Higgins – together they highlighted the future of the NECA/IBEW working relationship. Also in the spotlight of this broadcast were NECA’s general sessions, green alley and the International Lunch hosted by ELECTRI International.