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ELECTRI Meets the Challenge of Serving the Industry
As of June 23, 2018

Published on: 
June 18, 2012

ELECTRI International President Russ Alessi recently sat down with several electrical contractors to talk about the ways that ELECTRI is working to meet the needs of the industry.

What do you focus on as you guide ELECTRI International?

ALESSI: There are a number of ways I could answer that question. Certainly one piece is securing enough money and resources to accomplish a solid agenda. Another would be having enough critical ideas to turn into valuable research and programs and then having an effective process to research and conduct the projects and programs.

How far ahead does ELECTRI think when it’s putting together a research agenda?

We have to get away from reactive thinking and focus ahead five to fifteen years, giving companies the opportunity and the means to create a vision and shape their future.

What’s the most significant challenge facing ELECTRI?

Having ELECTRI products and research used and recognized as coming from the Foundation. We constantly need to define how ELECTRI products are helping to shape and focus the “big picture” of the electrical construction industry.

ELECTRI describes its Body of Knowledge. What does that mean?

Not all research projects are considered equally important by all electrical contractors, manufacturers, distributors or industry allies. So, a research product in itself is not always immediately valuable to the entire audience. However, each project becomes a piece of the information building block, creating the “body of knowledge” that helps to improve the industry as a whole.

How do industry members get their hands on ELECTRI products?

We work hard to get the outcome of each ELECTRI research project to as broad an audience as possible by publishing and distributing reports for free or at a nominal charge. But the useful life-cycle of an ELECTRI research study does not end with its publication date. In many cases, studies are transformed and re-energized as articles in academic journals, workshops/seminar, university classroom programs, consultancy services, and so forth.

We have a long outreach list and we are constantly working on extending our network and increasing the influence of ELECTRI products. I can give you several quick examples.

We will soon launch a re-designed ELECTRI website to better meet the needs of our contributors, researchers and anyone looking for current scientific reports about trends, technical improvements, safety, productivity and many other topics relevant to the EC industry. The site will offer comprehensive search functions so that users can access research reports by keywords, title, author, or research institution. It will highlight all research projects funded and published by ELECTRI since 1992 and will provide links to the NECA Bookstore where each report can be ordered. NECA members may download all ELECTRI publications at no charge from the NECA bookstore.

Electronic Bookstore
The one-stop-shop for every available ELECTRI International research publication is NECA’s Electronic Bookstore ( Most reports are available as a printed copy for a nominal charge and as a PDF download. As I mentioned earlier, NECA members can download all ELECTRI publications at no charge.

Sometimes, reading a report isn’t enough. How does ELECTRI help education the industry?

There are a number of ways that this happens. First, as ELECTRI research is completed and published, the content is developed into educational programs available to the EC industry through NECA’s Management Education Institute.

Many NECA Chapters want to deliver ELECTRI research findings, as offered by MEI, directly to their members. All NECA Chapters have the opportunity to participate in the annual Wendt Scholarship program that subsidizes the cost of bringing industry educational expertise directly to the Chapter and its members.

ELECTRI researchers are frequently invited to the NECA Convention to discuss their projects or to run workshops/seminars based on their research findings. One positive add-on is that researchers are often hired as consultants by EC companies whose leaders have participated in the workshop.

Similar to Convention workshops, ELECTRI invites researchers to conduct pre-Council workshops at ELECTRI Council meetings throughout the year. These workshops give Council members the opportunity to learn more about the research projects they have selected for funding and to focus on specific problems of interest to their work.

We offer webinars during which a moderator presents information to all participants via the computer as an online electronic seminar. Electrical contractors like this format because it allows them and their employees to learn about topics relevant to their work without having to spend time and money traveling to a program.

ELECTRI uses Webinars mainly to detail the research studies that have a practical impact on the EC industry. This includes projects that have either resulted in tools that can be used by EC companies or projects that have been developed into educational courses offered through MEI.

What does ELECTRI do to keep the academic researchers on track so that we get good products that we can use?

Each research project funded by ELECTRI International has a Task Force that includes ELECTRI Council members and others with EC industry expertise. They are a resource for the researcher and their close interaction helps increase the quality and relevance of the individual research projects and helps bridge the gap between academia and industry by building relationships of trust and mutual understanding. As part of the research process, and in addition to the feedback and guidance from the project Task Force, each ELECTRI researcher must deliver regular progress reports, either as a written update or as an in-person presentation at an ELECTRI Council meeting. This helps researchers and the ELECTRI Council to evaluate the progress of each study and to ensure that the work accomplished matches the research project’s initial objectives and deliverables.

NECA contractors get the information on ELECTRI, but how about other parts of the industry?

Electrical Contractor Magazine serves the entire electrical contracting industry and is an excellent way that we can transfer ELECTRI information to the industry. Executives from the magazine attend ELECTRI Council meetings and use new ideas, market trends and researcher talent as potential areas of interest and authors for a series of articles in the magazine. Also, every member of the industry is entitled to order ELECTRI reports from the Bookstore.

Does ELECTRI research really make a difference?

Yes it does. The available research dollars from ELECTRI have re-focused academics and their students on companies and research topics relevant to the electrical industry.

One popular researcher reported back that he had created and conducted ten seminars based on his ELECTRI research and then delivered through MEI over the past 15 years. As a result, he reports having trained approximately 10,000 individuals employed by NECA companies. This researcher also reported publishing over 100 academic technical papers based on ELECTRI research during this same 15-year timeframe.Professors use ELECTRI Research projects as part of their curriculum in construction and engineering classes. A University of Houston researcher, who recently discovered ELECTRI, downloaded 15 different research reports to use as part of his course curriculum.Often, an ELECTRI research project parallels work being conducted by a NECA committee or task force. In that case, the researcher becomes an important part of the NECA task force, sharing knowledge uncovered during the research and gaining insight from the task force perspective. Over the years, this collaborative model has been frequently implemented in new market areas such as VDV integration among electrical contractors, sustainability, energy efficiency and energy audit education.

What does ELECTRI do with its Education Center and the International Center?

Integrating ELECTRI’s Research, Education and International Centers has dramatically enhanced NECA’s international reach. For example, a research project addressing Energy Efficiency & Sustainability will be funded as a Research Center project. The results will serve as the design for a program such as the “Green Energy Challenge “annual student competition and the “Student Passport Program”. These activities are part of the Talent Initiative featured in both the Education Center and the International Center.The “Student Passport Program”, originally designed in the Research Center, is an international student learning and volunteering experience, focused so far on Central America. It is part of ELECTRI’s annual Cross Border meeting.Several ELECTRI International papers have been presented in Europe as part of the agenda for meetings with European electrical contractors. In fact, one ELECTRI researcher from Wisconsin used the Foundation’s productivity and change order research as the basis for an $850 million claim pertaining to construction of the Copenhagen Metro.

What kind of report card do you give ELECTRI now that it’s around for more than 20 years?

Taken together, all of our activities show how engaged NECA members and industry partners are with us. ELECTRI progress is outstanding. Our programs are innovative and strong. We take every opportunity to engage contractors, chapters and partners in our work. Our investment in excellence is our only objective.