|There are thousands of veterans exiting the eight Georgia military bases every month. Governor Nathan Deal provided an eye opening statistic, “60 to 80 thousand veterans will be returning to Georgia by 2016.” This population is one of the ways electrical members can find solutions to their workforce need. Below are the steps you should consider to tap into this great market for electrical contractors.
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We have been “cautiously optimistic” about the economy, but if the hiring levels that we are seeing from our IEC members in Atlanta are any indication of the economy, then we are way beyond optimistic – we’re in high gear!
Here at the IEC we not only monitor hiring, we also provide services to our members in form of applicants for hire. The level of hiring that our members are experiencing has been steadily increasing since fall to levels that we’ve not seen since 2006!
With over 20 contractors hiring anywhere from a couple to 20 each at all levels, the IEC is just not able to keep up with demand. However, we want to help contractors with their hiring needs by providing them with some strategies that they can use to meet their workforce needs. Some of these are mostly likely already being used, but others may not be so evident to many contractors. Additionally, some of these strategies will be utilized for entry level, while others can be used for apprentice or electrician level workers. Whatever the needs are, a multi-pronged approached will reap the best results.
1) If you are not already a member of the IEC, join now, as we do have applicants ready and willing to work. This week alone we’ve had 6 applicants apply. To join IEC, go to www.iecatlanta.org in Atlanta Metro and www.iecgeorgia.org outside of the metro area.
2) IEC members should review our applicants in our on resume service for those whom consider themselves electricians. IEC members must register on our website at www.iecatlanta.org to gain access to this members only are.
3) Register your company with Operation Workforce – a link can be found on our homepage at www.iecatlanta.org. This site will allow you to search for veterans whom are exiting the military. There are thousands of veterans exiting the military every day from one of Georgia’s 8 military bases! These individuals are your best bet for skilled workers.
4) Register your company with Go Build Georgia (www.gobuildgeorgia.org) where thousands of high school students, as well as job seekers will see your company and your job openings. This is another free service from the state of Georgia that seeks to match employers with job seekers.
5) List your job openings with CEFGA (www.cefga.org) – the Construction Education Foundation of Georgia. CEFGA works with the skilled trades educators in high schools throughout the state. So those students whom are now graduating high school will be looking for work. Many of these students have already had pre-apprenticeship training in high school, and in many instances, work experience.
6) Make use of social media – yes Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram! Most contractors may think they are a waste of time (and they can be), however one way to reach out and spread the word about opportunities with your company are to develop and online presence. The millenniums (ages 19-37) are much more likely to utilize social than either baby-bommers, or GenX. You can find both new workers and skilled workers using this strategy.
7) Tap into the Hispanic population. All the population and census data points to the rise in this population in the coming years, though I believe there are already plenty of willing workers in this population to help satisfy the demand – it just takes a bit of planning to put the right people in place, i.e, a bilingual supervisor.
There are certainly other strategies that you can utilize, but all of them take some planning and resources to put in place. Without workers, it’s clear we can’t get the work completed, so it makes sense to put the proper resources in place now to meet the market demands.
10 SIGNIFICANT 2014 CODE CHANGES
By IEC Instructor, Terry Rogers
1. ARTICLE 110.21(B)(1)(2)(3) MARKINGS: New requirements for field applied labels, such as labels must be typed not handwritten.
2. ARTICLE 110.26(E)(2)(a)(b) SPACES ABOUT ELECTRICAL EQIPMENT: New requirements for outdoor dedicated equipment space is similar to indoor dedicated equipment space.
3. ARTICLE 210.8(D) GFCI PROTECTION: New requirement for dwelling unit outlet for a dishwasher to be GFCI protected.
4. ARTICLE 210.12 AFCI PROTECTION: So many revisions and new requirements for AFCI protection to mention. If you are a contractor, engineer, installer of dwelling occupancies, this by far is the most significant change.
5. ARTICLE 404.2(C) SWITCHES CONTROLLING LIGHTING LOADS: New revisions since first introduced in the 2011 NEC.
6. ARTICLE 422.23 TIRE INFLATION and AUTOMOTIVE VACUUM MACHINES: New code rule requiring GFCI Protection.
7. ARTICLE 450.10(A) DRY-TYPE TRANSFORMER ENCLOSURE GROUNDING and BONDING: New requirement for grounding/bonding terminal bar.
8. ARTICLE 555.15(B)(C) MARINAS and BOATYARDS GROUNDING: Come find out why ALUMINUM equipment grounding conductors perform just as well as copper conductors.
9. ARTICLE 600.6(A)(1) ELECTRIC SIGNS DISCONNECTS LOCATION: New requirement for Point of Entry to sign or pole.
10. ARTICLE 700.16 EMERGENCY ILLUMINATION: New requirement for emergency lighting at service equipment.
We continue to get reports and see signs of an improved economy, which is what we’ve all been waiting and hoping for! But as we continue with our cautiously optimistic economical revival, there also comes a whole new set of challenges. What are some of the business operations that must be adjusted as continue with this up cycle?
1) If you’re not already recruiting and training new employees, do it now! 6 months ago the IEC had 30-40 excess apprentices in our program. Now there are only a couple (we do have plenty of inexperienced people available). IEC is recruiting heavier now than in the last 6 years, but each contractor must have their own active recruitment plan.
2) Look at your current workforce and determine who can move into a supervisory position. Then, get them the training they need in management and leadership so they will have the skills to succeed in their new responsibilities. Good technicians do not necessarily make good lead or supervisory employees, but with some training, they can learn the new skill sets that will be needed to make them successful.
3) Update your cash flow projections. It has been said that an uptick in the economy is when the greatness number of contractors will go out of business because they do not have the proper cash in place to ramp up for new jobs.
4) Take your updated cash flow projections and meet with your banker, or other sources of cash, to assure that you will have the financing in place when you need it.
There are certainly other areas that may need to be evaluated, but you probably already know these areas, just as you have been through the “up” cycle, though it may have been awhile.
As the construction industry continues (be it tepid) to rebound, finding skilled workers will become increasing difficult. In fact, the labor shortage that we experienced in the mid 2000’s will pale in comparison to what we will face in the next several years.
With that in mind, there are really only two strategies you can use to grow your workforce: train new employees or find experienced workers. These two approaches are certainly not mutually exclusive, nor is one right and one wrong; however companies tend to favor one over the other.
Many contractors will say that they prefer to train the workers themselves from entry level so they have the right skills and knowledge. This is a great philosophy; however, based upon your manpower needs, you may not always have the time to send them through a 4 year electrical apprenticeship program.
Let’s acknowledge that there is no one “silver bullet,” therefore, the chart below provides some ideas to fulfilling your manpower needs in finding both new workers and skilled workers already in the electrical industry. No matter what strategy and methods you use to find workers, the most important aspect of the process is to have a well thought out plan for workforce development, and then give it priority by working the plan.
As you review this chart, you will probably notice that many ideas are technology related because more and more, our society and job hunters, are moving to handheld mobile devices (phones & tablets) to stay connected in their everyday lives.
Anyone in construction will know about MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet), but few are aware that OSHA is modifying the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) to align with the provisions of the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS) that was officially adopted by the United Nations (UN) in 2003. Here we are a full ten years later, and it will actually take affect with a stinging $2,500 fine to contractors for each employee who does not: 1) recognize the symbol, and 2) know the appropriate action to take beginning December 1, 2013.
Why adopt the new GHS?
It was designed to replace various classification and labeling standards used in different countries by using consistent criteria for classification and labeling on a global level. While those systems in different countries may have been similar in content and approach, they resulted in multiple standards and classifications and labels for the same hazard in different countries. Given the extent of international trade in chemicals, and the potential impact on neighboring countries when controls are not implemented, it was determined that a worldwide approach was necessary.
What are the major proposed changes to the Hazard Communication Standard?
• Hazard classification: Provides specific criteria for classification of health and physical hazards, as well as classification of mixtures.
• Labels: Chemical manufacturers and importers will be required to provide a label that includes a harmonized signal word, pictogram, and hazard statement for each hazard class and category. Precautionary statements must also be provided.
• Safety Data Sheets: Will now have a specified 16-section format.
• Training on label elements must include: Product identifier; Signal word; Pictogram; Hazard statement(s); Precautionary statement(s); and Contact of manufacturer, distributor or importer.
Who does it affect?
It is estimated to affect over 40 million workers in 5 million workplaces for any consumers, workers or transporters of hazard materials. Other U.S. Agencies involved include the Dept. of Transportation (DOT), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Consumer Product Safety Commissions (CPSC). Check the OSHA website for details at http://www.osha.gov/dsg/hazcom/ghs.html#4.12
What About Training?
The focus of training is to recognize and interpret label and/or SDS information, and to take appropriate action in response to chemical hazards. OSHA has many sources for a variety of jobsites, however the IEC (Independent Electrical Contractors) has developed a GHS web resource page at http://www.ieci.org/workplace-safety/ghs-resources. This also includes a “train-the-trainer” webinar and other useful training information including toolbox talks so that you may document the GHS training that you perform for your employees.
One of the trickiest areas of compliance with the Davis-Bacon Act are Fringe Benefits, which when administered correctly can save a lot of money, or cost you a lot if you get it wrong. From what can be included, to when to pay, how to pay, not to mention, how much to pay are all land-minds, or gold-minds, if done properly. Let’s assume you are signed up with a registered apprenticeship program with the US Dept. of Labor (or state apprenticeship council) like the one IEC Atlanta/Georgia operates. (If you have not already done so, please read my post from May 29 on “Profiting from DB...”)
1) First and foremost – READ YOUR CONTRACT. As we all know the “Contract is King!” IEC Atlanta/Georgia’s apprenticeship program standards specifies that a minimum of $1/hour be paid to registered apprentices on a DB job. If the contract is silent on this issue, then it is permissible to pay apprentices the $1, or more per hour. However, if the contract specifies the full fringe, or some other percentage, then that would overrule the apprenticeship program standards. This is critical! Read the contract carefully! Read the DOL Bulletin
2) Know your current fringe amount in hourly rate format. If a contract specifies $8.67/hour be paid in fringe, then don’t automatically pay that out! Calculate each of the fringe amounts you pay into an hourly rate and then deduct that from the specified rate. Example: if you pay 50% of the health insurance premium at $200/mth, then the annual amount would be 200 x 12, or $2,400. Convert this to an hourly rate (2,400 / 2,080 work hours per year) = $1.15/hour. Continue with all your benefits, total and deduct this from the $8.67 to determine what additional (if any) you are required to pay. Now that you know how to calculate a fringe as an hourly amount, what can be included?
3) Know What Can Be Included in Fringe. Bottom line, anything that you choose to provide for an employee can normally be included in the calculation of the fringe. Those items you can not include are: taxes, workers comp, unemployment and any other state or local mandated taxes, fees or regulated costs required under law. There are a few that can go either way depending upon how you treat them. For example, if you pay for the cost of the apprenticeship program or other schooling, this can be included as long as it is not contingent upon a passing grade. A fringe can only be included if it is given without a contingency. Finally, don’t forget to include any paid time off such as vacation, holiday or sick time.
4) Contributions to a Retirement Type Account. This may be the trickiest, but extremely advantageous and should be administered by a qualified broker or fringe benefits group that specializes in DB work. Instead of setting up a retirement plan, you can always just add the additional fringe amount to the hourly rate, but doing will automatically cost you the additional taxes (FICA, SUTA, Comp, Unemployment, etc…) in addition to the rate, which on average can be 5%! Then, there’s overtime, which must be paid at time and a half on the hourly rate, which will cost an additional 50% of the fringe, plus taxes. Payments to the retirement account must be made at least quarterly, and if invested wisely during the quarter, can also make you some money! Next, by contributing into an employees retirement plan, it allows owners and key employees to contribute more for their own retirement due to strict IRS rules. There are more advantages, but are beyond the scope of this post – contact a specialist to set one up for you. But please don’t ignore this tip if you are going to be competitive in your bids.
As a disclaimer, I highly recommend you have your fringe benefits calculations reviewed by a specialist or attorney, as there are every-changing regulations in this arena.
5 Tips for Exceptional Customer Service That Lead to Greater Revenue, Regardless of the Type of Work
Let’s face it, as consumers, when we buy something, be it fast food, a new gun, or even a car or home, we want, and event expect good customer service. And the more we spend, the more we expect good, if not exceptional customer service. But what does good customer service mean to you? In it’s most basic form, it comes down to good, plain courteous manners, with a good dose of respect through in. Think about some of your experiences both good and bad, and I think you’ll agree that good manners and respect have either been exceptional or lacking all together. Let’s take it a bit further, and extend it out to the job site and throughout the entire company.
Tip #1: “Please, thank you, yes sir, no sir, and it’s my pleasure” are all basic manners that people will notice. This should be clear in any new employee orientation and must be modeled by all supervisors when interacting with employees.
Tip #2: All employees most dress for success, not just the office staff. Our employees represent the company from the way the phones are answered to the line workers on job sites. Clean clothes, well-groomed and good hygiene are key to representing the company in a positive and respectful manner.
Tip #3: The leadership and management of the company must make sure that they not only care about the safety and welfare of all employees, but clearly communicate this to their employees. If employees don’t feel valued, then how will they act on job sites?
Tip #4: Create a culture of high expectations from your employees. This can be accomplished by setting goals, providing training for skills enhancement, and clearly communicating expectations to them.
Tip #5: Make sure that all employees follow through with what is promised to the customer. This can easily be accomplished by simply asking the customer if they are happy with what has been provided to them. If they are not happy, then find out what will make them happy and deliver on the promise as quickly as possible.
Profiting from the Davis-Bacon Act: Are You Making One of the Top Three Deadly Mistakes on the Prevailing Wage Rate?
Mistake #1: Paying the full prevailing wage rate versus a percentage of the rate based upon the experience level of the worker, which can be as low as 60% less PER HOUR! Assume the prevailing wage rate is $30/hour, you could be saving $18 per hour! How do you save the $18 per hour, per person? You must have your workers signed up in a registered apprenticeship program such as the one offered by the Independent Electrical Contractors, the IEC.
Mistake #2: Paying the full fringe amount versus $1 per hour. Additionally, if you are already providing some benefits like paid time off, health insurance or pension, then you can deduct that amount from the required $1 per hour when your workers are in a registered apprenticeship program like the IEC’s. There are a few other mistakes that you need to avoid around the benefit amount – I’ll cover this in a subsequent post.
Mistake #3: Delaying the start date of the registered apprenticeship for your workers until the start of classes. Registered apprenticeship has two components: classroom related instruction and on-the-job-training. Most contractors wait until the start of the classroom related instruction to register apprentices, but registration can start once the on-the-job-training begins. Contact your local IEC office and ask their professional staff how to get workers registered right away.
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We’ve all heard it before: “Unions served their purpose years ago, but now are just not needed!” When union organizers show up, many people now feel they are self-serving and only operate to keep themselves in existence, or to keep a politician in office. And recently, they have been appearing not at job sites, but at the front door of a number of contractors in the area.
But why is it that when a union organizer showing up at an employer’s office it strikes fear into the hearts of some contractors, while others want to sit down and have a conversation with them? Is it the past experience (or lack of experience) for the contractor? Is it a sense of loss of control, or the focus it takes away from finding and managing the business that strikes the fear into some and not others? And those that are fearful of union organizers will also jump immediately into action with new policies, retaining professional services and other activities that “circle the wagons” around the company and their employees. However, there may be a simple answer to the different reactions when the union comes a knockin’!
But first, let’s go back to my original statement: “Unions served their purpose years ago, but now are just not needed!” But what was their purpose? The answer seems quite simple: to make sure that employers not only treated their workers fairly, but also paid them fairly. However, in today’s “modern society” we now have minimum wages, Davis-Bacon wages, Family Leave Act, Unemployment and workers comp to name just a few. So, do these provisions nullify the value a union brings to their members?
And here’s another interesting scenario I ran across just a few days ago while talking to a casual acquaintance at the gym. He said that he was not looking forward to going into work that morning. When I asked him what he did and why, he replied “I’m a database administrator and I made a mistake of going to work for an unappreciative bad company.” You notice, he didn’t say I’m not getting paid enough or the benefits are bad – it was the company!
Herein lies the answer to the question; it’s not the pay or benefits, or even the job (in most cases); but the company. When an employer or contractor fears the union, I suggest to you that it’s the management of the company on a day-to-day basis that is the real fear, and not the wages, benefits, or even the job that is the issue. If management is providing a work environment where employees feel valued, cared about and have open communication, then that company has nothing to fear. So, are unions still serving their purpose? If they help an employer become a better manager of the employees by creating a good working environment, then I say a resounding “yes!”