The National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) makes cutting-edge industry research, knowledge and information available to the entire electrical contracting industry. This magazine is only one example. A newer one is NECA’s website at http://energysolutions.necanet.org.

NECA’s Energy Solutions blog presents news and opinions about sustainable construction, alternative energy and all things green as they relate to electrical contracting. You don’t have to be a NECA member to follow this blog; access is free, and you can learn a lot from it—even how to communicate properly.

A virtual primer on green speak was posted on Sept. 23. It was inspired by the realization that far too many people who really ought to know better are making mistakes when talking about green and sustainable matters, such as referring to “Leeds” (a city in England) when they actually mean “LEED” (the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program). Failure to communicate properly with potential customers can result in loss of business, not to mention loss of face.

That particular blog entry reinforces something I have said more than once in this column: Whether you are talking to customers or prospects, it’s important that you exhibit knowledge about what you are saying. So, the owner of an electrical contracting firm needs to have, at least, an adequate general knowledge of the technologies and processes involved in the services the company offers. The people on the job—not only electricians and technicians, but also project managers and others who interact with customers—must know these kinds of things inside and out and be able to communicate them effectively.

But, where can you find smart, well-educated, well-spoken, hard-working people who are so vital to an electrical contracting company’s success?

I’m glad you asked! One part of the multipart answer is that, right now, many of them are members of the NECA Student Chapters currently operating at more than 20 universities and colleges across the country. These groups are facilitated through the Talent Initiative developed by NECA’s research affiliate, ELECTRI International, to attract the best and brightest construction management interns and graduates to electrical construction.

While the NECA Student Chapters and the regular NECA chapters that work with them are free to devise their own programs and activities, one annual event that brings them all together and shows that these students can work the work and talk the talk is the annual NECA-ELECTRI Green Energy Challenge.

Providing such students with field trips to electrical contracting firms, internships with electrical contractors, educational sessions, and big annual events is an excellent start. Of course, to actually retain bright, young people in our industry after they graduate, we need to be able to offer them meaningful, fulfilling careers.

So, our association took the logical next step and recently established the NECA Career Center, an online resource designed to help NECA-member contractors recruit highly qualified students and industry professionals to real-life management and administrative positions.

The NECA Career Center debuted only a few months after the launch of another innovative initiative: the NECA Mentoring Program. It matches contractors who are new to the industry or who face a particularly difficult issue with more seasoned ECs who volunteer their time and expertise to advise their younger colleagues one-on-one.

The focus on the next generation of electrical contracting management and leadership is certainly not a recent development at NECA. For example, the NECA Future Leaders Program, geared to the individuals who will continue to shape the industry and lead our association into the future, has been up and running for years now. Moreover, NECA and our industry partners have been addressing this topic through research and management education for many decades.

NECA also is the driving force behind other forward-looking management and leadership-development programs and initiatives at the national level. Several NECA chapters engage in similar activities at the local level to help people gain the knowledge and skills to serve as the leaders and managers we need.

In short, NECA and its affiliates are doing a lot to ensure our future leaders, managers and workers are knowledgeable and capable enough to move our industry forward. It behooves all of us to invest serious thought and action in helping ensure the effective development of future leaders and managers within our own companies, as well.