Next month, dozens of people in various cities all across the nation will undertake the rigorous solar photovoltaic (PV) and solar thermal installer certification exams offered through the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP). Only a few will pass.

That’s the way it should be. The National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) and our partners in the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) are integrally involved in NABCEP’s efforts. Our National Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee (NJATC) was the driving force in launching this volunteer board of renewable energy stakeholder representatives in 2001. The NJATC had been developing and delivering work force training on alternative energy, including solar and wind power, for more than a decade by then.

All these organizations—NECA, IBEW, NJATC and NABCEP—realize it takes a lot of study and experience to master green technologies. Accordingly, we believe those who seek professional credentials as renewable energy installers should be held to very high standards. I’m sure you can agree.

I’m also sure we all can agree it is wise to invest in training workers for the green building market, given that this market is continuing to expand. However, this investment will be wasted if we contractors neglect our own education.

As company owners and employers, we—not our electricians or technicians—determine what type of projects we want to take on. It is up to us to land these projects and bring them in at a profit while ensuring our customers’ needs are met. But, if you set your sights on the green building market—which most of us eventually must, whether by desire or necessity—simply staying in budget and on schedule while having your crew put quality work in place is no longer sufficient.

Green contractors need to understand sustainability and how to manage the various processes that go into sustainable construction. They need to be able to talk intelligently with customers about their options and to work with designers and other contractors from the very start of a project. They need to keep abreast of new green products and be able to evaluate their appropriateness for a given project. And, if the project is following a green rating system, such as the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program, green contractors need to understand the system thoroughly.

Where can you acquire the necessary knowledge? Well, a Google search on “green contractor” or “green building” will lead you to tons of information. But, to simplify matters, I recommend that you start by going to this Web site: www.neca-mei.org.

That’s the online home of NECA’s Management Education Institute. Once you are there, click on “Catalog of Courses” and then “Emerging Green Markets” (under “Online Management”) to learn about a course now available online, ready whenever you choose to acquire the knowledge of green construction services that will give you a strategic advantage. Reflecting the findings of research conducted for ELECTRI International, the “Emerging Green Markets” course is targeted to the executive management level.

This is just one of the resources NECA has developed to help electrical contractors grow and prosper in the green building market. And, you can expect our association to step up its efforts in providing education and training and credentialing programs for green contractors and their employees now that we have become an official member of the U.S. Green Building Council, the developer of the LEED standards. Other USGBC?members include builders, designers, legislators, policymakers, educators, manufacturers, developers, activists and scientists.

Watch these pages for news on developments. The green building market is here to stay and so is NECA, your “ever-green” source for dependable advice and support!