Training is the best and only way for electrical contractors and electricians to stay ahead in a world filled with changing markets, technologies and methodologies. However, training can be expensive, and it certainly is time-consuming to travel to another city to attend a seminar on new products or new techniques. The advent of personal computers, company networks and the Internet has taken some of the economic sting out of training. This technology provides online distance learning opportunities for electrical contractors and their employees. They can learn at their own pace, without leaving the office or job site.

For more than a century, Underwriters Laboratories Inc. (UL), Northbrook, Ill., has provided technical expertise to manufacturers in 35 countries to enable the building of safer products. Through a combination of online training, books, safety videos, live Web-delivered programs and facilitated workshops, UL University (www.uluniversity.com) now offers training for a broad range of subject matter customized to fit specific educational needs.

Self-paced online courses include Hazard-Based Safety Engineering (HBSE), which is targeted for design, product safety and regulatory compliance engineers. It is designed to help balance safety requirements and guidelines against other parameters, such as usability, cost and customer satisfaction. Courses also include the National Electrical Code (NEC): a Practical Application, which provides a detailed examination of the history of the NEC and the Code proposal process, with an emphasis on how to use the NEC to locate and interpret Code requirements. UL University also has a course on neon lighting, which is designed to provide a detailed examination of the history of neon lighting and how it evolved, and it focuses on the design, application and installation of neon systems in accordance with the NEC.

StandardsLearn.org is the portal to online standards and conformity assessment education and offers free, self-paced e-learning courses as a public service of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), Washington, D.C., (www.ansi.org). The resource provides easy-to-use educational tools for anyone who wants or needs an introduction to standards and conformity assessment activities. Courses include Through History with Standards, an introduction to how standards and their impact on commerce and society have evolved over a span of several centuries; Why Standards Matter, a general introduction to standards and conformity assessment activities, designed to provide a basic initiation to standards for management and technical personnel in business, industry association management, engineers, purchasing staff and consumers; U.S. Standards System, which provides an overview of the U.S. standards development environment, demonstrates the value of participating in standards development, reviews the key questions to ask before standard development is initiated, and explains how standards development relates to national and international business; and Legal Issues in Standard Setting, which provides a simple review of antitrust laws and patent policies and how they may apply to the standards development process.

Understanding and correctly applying the NEC is vital to electrical contractors’ continued success. So the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), Quincy, Mass., which publishes the Code, offers its Online Learning Center (www.necdirect.org), where contractors and electricians can learn valuable new skills or stay up-to-date on current standards and recommended best practices. Courses are designed to provide access to convenient, cost-effective training anywhere, anytime. Offerings have been expanded to include nearly 40 hard-hitting educational sessions, including four online certificate programs. When all the courses within a program are concluded, users get a certificate of completion, and CEUs are awarded for programs with eight or more courses.

The four certificate programs offer courses in automatic sprinkler systems, electrical installation in hazardous locations, fire alarm fundamentals, and fire and life safety in healthcare occupancies. Individual courses include sprinkler system repair, automatic sprinkler inspection, testing and maintenance, sprinkler design, identifying materials and equipment for hazardous locations, protection methods concepts, zone classification, Class II wiring methods, introduction to specialized fire detectors and supervisory initiating devices, fire alarm functions and power supplies, basic circuit design, heat and smoke detectors, and notification appliances. Other courses include handling flammable liquids and an overview of the principle workplace fire extinguishers.

BICSI Inc., a Telecommunications Association, Tampa, Fla., (www.bicsi.org), supports the information transport system (ITS) industry with information, education and knowledge assessment for those individuals and companies that provide the fundamental infrastructure for telecommunications, audio/video, life safety and automation systems. BICSI’s Web-based training courses offer a mix of conceptual and procedural learning experiences through reading and user interactivity. Online courses include local area networks (LAN) with an introduction to LAN stations and servers, LAN operations, and LAN standards; Remote Access Technologies, including components, operations and standards; and Network Storage, including fundamentals of high speed interfaces and system backups. Simulated tests form a databank of more than 600 questions to test one’s knowledge before sitting for the Registered Communications Distribution Designer (RCDD) specialty exam.

To further help its members, the Management Education Institute(MEI) of the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA), Bethesda, Md. (www.neca-mei.org), focuses its curriculum on the business, technical and project-management disciplines that are essential to success in the electrical contracting industry. The institute brings a wide range of resources to bear in the continuing development of its education services program and now offers online training. One MEI online course provides clear instruction on the proper application of the NECA Manual of Labor Units when estimating electrical construction projects. Through this course, contractors and estimators will learn how to properly apply the labor unit data to a specific material installation. It contains helpful information about the origin of the labor units, the proper application of the data and how one can use these labor units to competitively bid electrical construction projects. In addition, the new Practical Guide to E-Mail in the Workplace focuses on improving the management of a company’s e-communications and helps contractors reduce e-mail risk by encouraging employees to think carefully before sending e-mails. It explains how e-mails can come back to either haunt or defend the company in any liability action, and it emphasizes the need to keep a professional tone and quality in an organization’s e-mails.

The National Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee (NJATC), Upper Marlboro, Md. (www.njatc.org), offers electrical training through its on-the-job and classroom apprenticeship programs for both traditional electrical and low-voltage installations. However, it offers online training (www.njatctrainingonline.org) that provides access to quality, cost-effective safety training materials. Lessons are self-paced and cover safety issues for the electrical worker, including bucket truck rescue, clearances, enclosed spaces, excavations, hand and power tools, overhead lines, first aid, underground installations, grounding, personal protective equipment (PPE), chemical and chlorine safety, asbestos hazards, environmental management and handling hazardous waste. Courses in employment law also are available online.

In partnership with Blue Volt, Portland, Ore. (www.bluevolt.com), the NJATC offers state-approved continuing education courses that allow electricians to keep their licenses current while training on their own schedule. Subjects include negotiating skills, building lasting customer relationships, fundamentals of marketing, effectively closing a sale, significant changes to the NEC, grounding and bonding, industrial safety, motors and controls, communication skills, government contracting, human resources and workplace issues, knowledge management, information technology, and the Internet and computer basics.

Manufacturer-offered training

Training on major electrical manufacturers’ products; information about installation methods, safety and standards; and manufacturer certification courses are only a mouse click away for anyone who is interested. Manufacturers recognize the need electrical contractors have for this valuable training and, in today’s ether-world, are able to provide it easily and cost-effectively, allowing the contractor to gain the knowledge required to add value to its offerings.

  • Fluke Corp., Everett, Wash. (www.fluke.com), offers online calibration and metrology training courses, including a certificate of completion that satisfies documentation requirements.

  • Square D/Schneider Electric, Palatine, Ill. (www.squared.com), provides online training for its DigestPlus Selector and other productivity-enhancing eTools that let the contractor get the most out of the company’s time-saving, productivity-enhancing tools.

  • Panduit Corp., Tinley Park, Ill. (www.panduit.com), provides training for its cable support, copper, fiber, raceway, connector, structured cabling and wiring accessory products.

  • Leviton Manufacturing Co. Inc., Little Neck, N.Y. (www.leviton.com), offers ez-Learn, which provides lessons in structured wiring products, life-saving electrical safety devices, and the latest advances in lighting control and energy management.

  • ElecTech, from Pass and Seymour/Legrand (P&S), Syracuse, N.Y. (www.passandseymour.com), allows electricians and others to learn all about the company’s products and earn credits towards P&S merchandise.

  • Advance Transformer Co., Rosemont, Ill. (www.advancetransformer.com), welcomes Advance University online registrants to its accredited courses on ballast components, operation, troubleshooting and new technologies.

  • Siemens Energy and Automation Inc., Alpharetta, Ga. (www2.sea.siemens.com), has self-study courses that range from free, online courses to its new pay-per-view Safety Series and include foundation industrial electronics knowledge and basic automation system skills.

  • Learning on the Go from Eaton Corp./Cutler-Hammer, Cleveland, Ohio (www.eaton.com), is designed to provide a solid foundation of industry knowledge, from the fundamentals of electricity and electrical distribution, to basic information on product groups such as adjustable frequency drives, panelboards and motor control centers. Each learning module focuses on a specific product group and contains general information, such as common terms, product theory and operation, codes, and real-world applications.

  • Cooper Bussmann Inc., Ellisville, Mo. (www.cooperbussmann.com), offers e-training modules that cover listing and labeling, arc-flash hazards, overcurrent calculations and protective devices, voltage ratings, and electrical hazards, as well as industrial control panels, safety basics, and technical training manuals.

This is just a short list of all the training opportunities offered by manufacturers. In addition, more will likely offer online training in the future.

Taking advantage of online training is easy, cost-effective and enables electrical contractors to stay on the cutting edge of rapidly advancing and evolving technologies.  EC

BREMER, a freelance writer based in Solomons, Md., contributes frequently to ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR. She can be reached at 410.394.6966 or darbremer@comcast.net.