Oklahoma Chapter of the National Electrical Contractors Association
Since 1944, the Oklahoma Chapter of the National Electrical Contractors Association (OKNECA) has delivered the critical industry information, training, education and relationship-building that heightens success of its associated electrical contractors. OKNECA represents a membership of 15 companies throughout the Sooner State, heavily concentrated in Oklahoma City.
“We function similar to most local chapters and for the relatively small size of our membership, we have a lot of big players in this market that are involved with OKNECA,” says Scott Hopkins, executive director of OKNECA. Dane and Associates Electric Company, Osborne Electric and Oklahoma Electric Supply Company (OESCO) are all part of OKNECA’s membership base. Combined, these three members average more than 350 employees.
Focused on labor relations
Established and built around experienced business professionals, OKNECA offers members numerous benefits but primarily functions as a platform to strengthen labor relations with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW). “We enjoy very good relationships with our local unions,” adds Hopkins. “While we serve our members in many capacities, the majority of what we do involves labor and labor issues. This is the primary service we provide to contractors.”
By negotiating the industry’s collective bargaining agreement for Oklahoma and serving as management representatives for the Western Oklahoma Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee (JATC), OKNECA helps ensure the availability of skilled, well-trained electricians. A qualified workforce allows OKNECA members to move quickly on new projects while serving customers safely and more cost effectively.
As technology and demand change in the industry and older generations retire, sometimes even well-established labor programs fail to meet the shortage of skilled workers. This is where the Construction Wireman/Construction Electrician (CW/CE) program has made a significant impact.
“Nationally negotiated language provides the formal guidelines for the program, which we adopted in 2007,” explains Hopkins. “Any then Intermediate Journeymen [IJs] were grandfathered in as CWs and CEs in the now more structured program. I think we started with just 25 individuals, now the program has more than 150 workers involved.”
Hopkins says before the CW/CE program there was little economic advantage to using an IJ as opposed to an apprentice. “When we embraced CWs and CEs, we were able to negotiate more favorable wages and benefits, so the overall package and composite rate improved,” he says. “When the contract came up in 2007, NECA really didn’t have to promote or sell the program. In fact, the IBEW actually supported the program.”
Filtering in quality people
As far as members go, Hopkins says most have adopted the CW/CE program, but some have yet to incorporate it in their business model. “From my standpoint, most contractors are calling and wanting access to more CWs and CEs,” he says. “Some have found it to be extremely beneficial to their business.”
Between the interview process and paperwork, the apprenticeship program can take 90 days before a worker is physically on the job. “When CWs and CEs apply, they must only pass a drug test and perform a skills evaluation before going to work,” compares Hopkins. “This process also reduces the initial investment of time and money as well as providing a source of established applicants for the apprenticeship program. We want our next generation of foremen and leaders to come from our apprenticeship program. The CW/CE program has allowed us to filter applicants and be more selective with whom we indenture.”
Eyes on annual convention in San Francisco
In an increasingly competitive industry, OKNECA is helping contractors get a leg up with a healthy labor pool that can deploy rapidly, but the benefits of the association aren’t limited to labor.
Hopkins says networking and educational opportunities are also central to OKNECA’s model. “We’re gearing up for the biggest event in our industry in October 2015 – the annual NECA Convention and Trade Show; this year, in San Francisco,” he says. “It looks like we will have a strong group of our members attending this event.”
“The NECA Show is the premier electrical show in the industry, from an education and new technologies standpoint,” adds Hopkins. “Yes, this knowledge eventually trickles down, but attending the show in person gives you a firsthand look and can really inspire a contractor on how to grow and improve their business through new ideas.”
“There are networking opportunities and the chance to learn best practices from your peers,” continues Hopkins. “NECA unveils new curriculum, workshops and research projects – there’s just so much information to soak up, but it’s also a chance to have fun and meet new people in the industry.”
From the daily ins and outs of business to helping contractors prepare for the industry‘s biggest event, the Oklahoma Chapter of the National Electrical Contractors Association is bringing benefits to life and making connections to a bright future for members.
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