Are You Indispensable?

In the March/April issue of the IAEI News, I was wondering what our administrators were thinking about when they were downsizing or, in some cases, eliminating the inspection services that provide for the safety and welfare of their constituency. This time, I am wondering what we can do as inspectors, installers, designers, manufacturers, etc., to make ourselves so important that the administrators look somewhere else for budget cuts.

The first thing that comes to mind is education. Knowing your job and being proficient in the codes and standards that are used to perform your job is very important. Education is a continuing process. Heart surgeons or airline pilots don’t stop learning when they receive their license or certification. They have to keep up with all the new procedures, rules, and practices in order to maintain their knowledge. They have to continually practice their profession to maintain their proficiency to keep from injuring or killing their patients or passengers.

It is no different with the electrical profession. Education and training are even more important during these economic times. The person who knows and is experienced with the tools of his or her profession is certainly in a better position when cutbacks come along. With employers cutting back on training and travel, the training does not have to stop. Even during budget cuts, getting training and education is still possible. Webinars, on-line or distance learning, smaller on-site seminars, and instructor-led training for small groups are possibilities. The local inspection department, or together with a nearby inspection department, can take advantage of Train-the-Trainer programs by sending one or two to the Train-the-Trainer seminar to bring back techniques and information for their colleagues. Several programs are available for self-learning. There are chances of federal reimbursement for some programs that should be investigated.

IAEI has excellent resources that provide training in many ways. Train-the-Trainer, on-site seminars, co-op seminars with the local chapter or division, distance learning opportunities through UL University (more subjects coming soon), self-learning using IAEI textbooks and PowerPoint programs are some that are available. Of course, education alone will not make you or your department or business indispensable.

You must prove yourself. Prove that you know your stuff by being licensed, certified, and qualified to do your job. IAEI has two certification programs for electrical inspectors—the basic certification program through the National Certification Program for Construction Codes Inspectors (NCPCCI) and the elite certification program, Certified Electrical Inspector (CEI) through IAEI. Either of these certification programs shows that you are proficient with the electrical code, and the CEI program indicates that you can apply your knowledge of the codes and standards in the inspection and enforcement phase. And, by the way, re-certification requires staying up-to-date on those codes and standards and practices through continuing education.

While education, training, and certification are at the top of the list for your resume, there are other strengths that will make you one of those that just can NOT be done without. Your communication skills are important in building relationships with not only your employer but with the other people you work with and for. What better place to practice those skills than with IAEI. Write articles for the IAEI News, teach seminars, serve as an officer in the division, chapter, section, aspiring to be International President. Participate in local events, volunteer to be a mentor, teach the children—MAKE YOURSELF INDISPENSABLE. I am reminded of a motivational speaker that said that being a mentor keeps you strong and being mentored keeps you from being arrogant.

IAEI becomes more important to the electrical professional during the recession era. IAEI offers the professional a place for networking and meeting new contacts within the profession. IAEI provides the opportunity to engage in the code-making process by endorsing proposals and comments that have been initiated by you, the member, at the local level. IAEI is continually looking for ways to provide more benefits to the members. One is the credit card affinity program. A new benefit that IAEI is pursuing is a health insurance program that is affordable and also could be used as a replacement if you happen to lose your job or if benefits are cut by your employer. This program will be available to the family.

It has been suggested that membership in associations like IAEI tend to increase during times of economic uncertainty because people are looking for an association that will provide a secure feeling, that provides opportunities and services that help them during these times and into the future. IAEI can be that for its members if YOU d o your part. Encourage your coworker down the hall to become active in IAEI and remain active even during these trying times.

James W. Carpenter
Former IAEI CEO and Executive Director, and Editor-in-Chief for the IAEI News, James Carpenter was previously the chief electrical engineer, state electrical inspector for the Engineering Division of the Office of State Fire Marshal, North Carolina Department of Insurance. He had been with the department for twenty years, with twenty years electrical experience prior to coming to the state. He was a member of CMP-2 from 1987 to 2002 and was chairman for the last three cycles. He has been a member of IAEI since 1972. He was also a member of NFPA and is serving as the TCC chair and on the Standards Council. He was on the UL Electrical Council.