Learning Never Stops

It is hard to believe, but 2010 is almost over and with it, my term as IAEI International President is drawing to a close. As I prepare to pass the gavel to our First Vice President Chuck Mello, I would like to express my gratitude to all of the membership for the honor of serving the association as the 82nd IAEI International President. The year 2010 has been a transitional year with the retirement of Mr. James Carpenter as IAEI CEO/Executive Director on January 1st of this year. I would like to wish Jim and Mary Ann all the best, and I hope Jim’s impact on the depletion to the North Carolina fish population is minimal.

The transition has gone smoothly, although we spent over six months without a CEO/Executive Director with Dave Clements acting as the Secretary to the board until he could fill the position as our new CEO/Executive Director after a long and successful career with Nova Scotia Power as its chief electrical inspector. That transition would not have been possible if not for the professionalism of the IAEI staff, and I would like to especially thank the department heads for a job well done.

I begin my career as an inspector twenty-five years ago and much has changed in those years. When I started work as an inspector, one of the first things my first supervisor did was hand me a piece of paper with the names of three organizations, complete with the dates and times of their meetings; he then followed that with an opening volley to his lecture that begins with, “You will attend these meetings because it is part of your job to stay current on the code and that is what inspectors do.” He then barked at me for another ten minutes or so about the importance of my new profession and then closed with, “You will never stop learning in this profession.” In reflection, we need more inspectors to begin their careers with the same type of lectures.

I soon realized how true the statement was that the learning never stops; to this day I learn something new every day. I quickly realized that sometimes it is not as important to know the answer as it is to know when you need help and who to go to for that help. I then realized the value of the opportunities that IAEI provided me in networking with those in the electrical industry. It made my job much easier through the contacts and educational resources IAEI membership provided. As a bonus, I developed lifetime friendships with many of the contacts I made through IAEI and with those who mentored me along the way. We all shared a common bond in our dedication to our profession and to electrical safety.

The success of IAEI starts with the chapters, sections and divisions. In my home chapter, educational programs and partnerships with others in Las Vegas have been the key to our success as well as having strong leaders that are dedicated to the success of IAEI. The educational offerings have helped the chapter maintain our membership, raised attendance at chapter meetings and provided many of our local members with their first contact with IAEI. This resource as a membership development tool is by far too often overlooked for its value to IAEI and our individual members. An educational program at the chapter level also serves to reduce the cost of training and produces an added windfall to the chapter in the form of the revenue it generates.

You have heard a great deal over the past decade about our membership numbers declining and the attempts underway to increase our membership. Membership has not increased despite the best efforts of some very dedicated individuals on the membership committee. It may well be time to step back and take a good hard look at the way we have structured our membership and look at what changes need to be made to better serve our members and the electrical industry.

We need to expand our partnerships or relationships that exist, but we also need to seek to open new ones with groups like home inspectors and encourage participation from more combination inspectors; yes, I did say the “C” word. The use of combination or multi-hat inspectors is an economic reality of the world we live in and it is not going away. IAEI has a vast resource of knowledge that we need to share with everyone who is in the electrical and inspection industry. These inspectors are challenged with the task of, in most cases, staying current on four codes and on many trades in which they have no background. We should all try on that shoe.

IAEI today is challenged with many issues that will be critical to the success of the association in the future. I don’t need to tell you, our membership, the state of the national and global economy or how hard our industry has been affected by the downturn in construction. During the past year I have had the chance to talk with many of our members from Maine to Hawaii, and we all share the same challenges.

Our membership in most cases, both inspectors and associates, have had to face restructuring, shrinking budgets, workforce reductions, unpaid furloughs, cuts in travel, shrinking training budgets, benefit reductions including professional memberships paid by our employers, and your workloads have more than likely increased. None of us has a crystal ball, but we need to look to the future and consider where we envision IAEI in the future and our role in the electrical and inspection industry. It is said that “Leadership is action, not position”; and over the next few years, IAEI and its Board of Directors will need to make some important decisions. Those decisions will shape the future and existence of IAEI.