Summer is here, bringing plenty of distractions. Don’t get sidetracked, as this is the time to consider added training if you are an estimator. The hectic pace of change in our industry is virtually predictable. Technical advances over the years have made our industry a major player—but we need to keep on top of advances.

There are many sources of added training. Many are accessible from major population centers. Others are accessible via different means of communication—the Internet being foremost among them.

At NECA’s Web site (www.neca-mei.org), you’ll find the latest announcements regarding the topics and locations of educational opportunities. At this URL, there is access to the sections’ newsletter. Also, there is an interesting article regarding the indemnification clause. This clause is a central part of contract documents and, if enforced, could cost a company and the owners some considerable assets. This is an important read for estimators, so they can bring a specification clause of this type to the attention of management for further consideration as to what action to take. This is also a good example of how easy it is to access this wealth of information.

The catalog of courses at the NECA Management Education Institute offers an impressive variety of courses that can augment the educational effort. The course offerings are shown at www.necanet.org/PortalTools/RegMEI. The courses are divided into Business Management, Project Management and Technical Management sections. The offerings are a sound basis for a middle management curriculum, which very much resembles estimators’ duties.

The Electrical Contracting Foundation (also known as the Electri21) can be accessed at www.electri21.org. The foundation is supported by forward-thinking firms and members and has sponsored a variety of research reports. This site reviews the many previous reports written by professionals in the industry and available at low costs.

From a practical viewpoint, the National Electric Installation Standards (www.neca-neis.org) are great information for estimators who may not have had field exposure yet. The site can also serve as a resource for other company personnel.

Product demonstrations at local distributors can offer a localized means of finding out about new products. Like any show, the object is to create sales, but the opportunities to meet the company’s representatives also can be helpful, and they can be a valuable future information source. Of course, the best of these opportunities is offered by the NECA show (www.necashow.org), held in conjunction with the annual convention. The 2003 show will be in Orlando on Oct. 1-4. This is the chance to see not only new products, but also other products that many estimators seldom have the opportunity to see. Just as with local shows, the personal contacts are well worth the time invested and can prove invaluable.

In addition to the products exhibits, the convention provides training opportunities. Click on the schedule section of www.necashow.org for a menu of courses and their times. These courses are taught by well-qualified principals in the field. Many classes are offered more than once to fit busy schedules.

Further sources for continuing education are the colleges listed at enr.construction.com/resources/constschools. While many of these schools may be four-year degree schools, several offer extension courses that have appeal for the industry. While there is no listing for community colleges, research the offering at your local campus for applicable courses.

A minor benefit offered by some institutions is Continuing Education Units (CEU). To earn these usually requires a small fee and taking pre-approved courses. The advantage of CEUs is that some colleges accept units for electives in degree programs.

When it comes to training, contacting your local NECA chapter should be the first step. Some chapters offer a variety of courses, while others may recommend programs.

A day’s mail often includes advertisements for workshops at a local site. Often the topic is very inviting, although the fees are a consideration.

It is always a good idea to talk to someone who may have participated in a program offered by the organization that is running the course, particularly for relevance as related to the position in the firm.

Estimators, by the nature of the profession, must be curious and interested in solving problems. The “traditional” work has had many changes, and the technology augurs many more over the next years. Training helps you keep up with the times. EC

DAVID is a professor of electrical technology at Long Beach (Calif.) City College, a consultant and an expert witness. He can be reached at 562.597.1877 or at edavid@lbcc.cc.ca.us.