by Clara DeRosier, Executive Director
Last month the Electrical Association was featured in the Associations North quarterly newsletter. Associations North is the ‘Associations for Associations’ in Minnesota. I currently sit on their Board of Directors where I have fabulous opportunities to provide input to the programs and services offered to the local association community, as well as sit in the room with brilliant Association Executive Directors who have great ideas and innovative approaches to business. I was interviewed for the article, which you will find below for your reading pleasure. Non-Members—get to know a little more about the Electrical Association, and Members—remember why you are loyal and supportive of this incredible Association.
Sparking Interest in the Trades
Published: Focus North, September/October Issue
The Electrical Association supports its current members while building the industry’s future.
When an industry shifts and evolves over time, it becomes especially important for its association to change with it. The Electrical Association is doing just that to support its electrical contractor members around Minnesota, whether it is being a resource to contractors who have spent decades on the job or visiting schools to support the next generation of electrical contractors.
“We work hard to provide something to each of our 300 members,” explained Executive Director Clara Albert. “Their needs are diverse, but whether they’re looking for help with regulatory compliance, lobbying, or education, we have them covered.”
As the electrical industry has been progressing in the 21st century, the Electrical Association has been adapting to serve a rapidly changing workforce. Since it can take years for an aspiring electrical contractor to set up their own business – starting out as an apprentice, then a journey worker, then a master electrician – the association has developed a four-year, in-house apprenticeship program to help contractors along the way.
This unique, “earn while you learn” program occurs online every Tuesday evening for a few hours. Instead of driving to a physical classroom, participants can sign on wherever they’re at for training. This allows the Electrical Association to reach members in greater Minnesota, as well as in other states. Companies from Texas, Montana, and New Hampshire are also using this program for their employees.
“The apprenticeship program has grown to include over 300 participants today compared to only 100 participants six years ago,” Albert said. “It’s inspiring to see companies put resources into employee training.”
The Electrical Association also offers opportunities for its members to obtain continuing education credits to keep their licenses. Responding to the needs of younger generations for greater flexibility, the organization conducts live-online training. Instead of completing credits in person, electricians use WebEx video software to communicate back and forth with an instructor. This allows them to log on from anywhere – as it is most convenient for them.
While it may sound like a straightforward solution to better offer training and education to its members, regulatory hurdles often get in the way. Even though the organization’s work is centered in Minnesota, it has relationships with people in several different states. The Electrical Association recently offered a demonstration of an online WebEx class to a regulatory agency in Iowa to see how it could work; after working with the Electrical Association, Iowa has approved the online course as an option for continuing education.
“A big company that does business in seven different states may find it difficult to work through the laws and rules of each state,” Albert said. “It’s a benefit to our membership when we can help them navigate the different boards of electricity.”
In addition to its apprenticeship program and continuing education efforts, the Electrical Association also helps build the industry’s workforce with a job posting board, resume page, and partnerships with community-based organizations and coalitions like Project Build Minnesota. With the goal of sharing how satisfying a career in the trades can be, the association has brought its message to middle and high schools to encourage interest in the electrical industry.
At the Electrical Association’s school events, students learn how to make electrical connections by building light-up helicopters made from paper, sticky copper wire, triangle LED lights, a battery, and a binder clip. If they completed the circuit correctly, the lights turn on, and students can take the helicopter home to share with their families.
Members of the Electrical Association are also encouraged to talk to local schools in their communities too, and the association provides career kits and videos for presentations. The hope is to give students a taste of the opportunities awaiting them in the electrical industry.
“We are getting the facts out there that college is not the only option for students,” Albert said. “It has been great to raise awareness about how fulfilling working in the trades can be.”
Learn more about the Electrical Association: