Registration for NECA 2010 Boston opened recently at www.necaconvention.org, but that doesn’t mean the discussions that took place at NECA 2009 Seattle are forgotten. What happens at such events continues to inform attendees and inspire action long after the events are over. It’s just the opposite of what’s implied by that Vegas marketing catch phrase.

Two initiatives mentioned at our convention last fall in Seattle have since taken on strong lives of their own in the development stage. Progress may be most apparent in the establishment of the NECA Women Peer Group, but much behind-the-scenes work is also moving our association closer to instituting a formal NECA Mentoring Program where emerging contractors can benefit from some one-on-one guidance from established industry leaders.

During our 2009 convention, I expressed the importance of creating a forum for women working in the electrical construction industry to discuss the issues they face and facilitate mentoring relationships. My daughters—Rachel Barber and Tricia Ferry—put me up to it. They have worked with me at Valley Electrical Consolidated Inc. for several years and have attended NECA programs, such as the Executive Management Institute, so they are well aware of how changing demographics are affecting our industry; they know the value of helping all industry participants achieve their full potential.

Shortly after last year’s convention, the NECA Women Peer Group (NWPG) became active on Facebook and other social media. The first NWPG Summit took place last month. It featured an address by consultant Jilaine Bauer on the importance and progress of gender diversity in the corporate world and small group discussions on financial matters, making the right connections, and balancing work and life. Appropriately, this meeting in Milwaukee segued into the annual NECA Future Leaders Conference, which many of the summit participants also attended. All in all, it was a great start for this new initiative, and I anticipate we’ll be hearing more good news about this group as its membership grows.

I know we’ll be hearing more about the NECA Mentoring Program in the coming months—particularly during and after NECA 2010 Boston, which will (tentatively) include a workshop on this subject. That’s part of the plan that NECA’s Management Development Committee (composed of member contractors) and our Management Education Institute (MEI) are pursuing.

NECA has hired trusted consultant Karl Borgstrom to help develop the mentoring program—trusted because he has extensive experience in construction association executive management, most notably as the former executive director of MEI. He is currently helping fine-tune the “rules of engagement” between proteges and mentors. This is important because the NECA Mentoring Program will involve the sharing of business and practice information among member companies that will likely be more substantive than the normal discourse among trade association members, so extra care must be taken with respect to the legal framework in which contractors operate.

In addition to establishing workable procedures, subsequent steps will include putting together a syllabus for both proteges and mentors that will include suggested readings, source materials, a list of recommended MEI courses and other pre-requisites. Then, there’s the big task of developing additional educational programs as needed, such as a “Contractor 101” course for less experienced contractors.

While I can’t tell you when, precisely, these action assignments will be completed, I can declare two things with certainty:

1. Electrical contractors join NECA to improve their business capabilities and advance their place in our industry, so they are eager to learn and to take advantage of NECA resources and the privileges of membership. There will be no shortage of enthusiastic proteges who can be assured NECA will work hard to meet their needs.

2. NECA is full of successful contractors who are motivated by a desire to give something back to the industry and, at the same time, enjoy the emotional reward of helping their younger counterparts succeed. So, we should have no shortage of capable mentors, either.

In April’s column, I advised you to look for the natural leaders in your work force and help them develop their talents to lead your company forward. That’s what NECA is attempting with our mentoring program but on a much broader scale—we’re focusing on developing leaders for an entire industry and our association through one-to-one relationships.