Keeping Skills Current on a Limited Budget

2-Part Series

Published: May 2017
By Jim Phillips

Part #1 of a 2 Part Series:

What if you had been stranded on a deserted island for the past five years? By the time you were rescued, you would have missed the explosion of real-time social media, including Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, mobile marketing trends, as well as advancements in smart grids and wind and solar energy—it would be more than you could imagine. You may think, “I was only lost for a few years, how could industry and technology change so rapidly?”

What if you were stranded for just one year? You would have missed the latest Internet-of-Things (IoT) smart home technology, Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) technology movies, toys and games. You even would have missed the latest edition of the National Electrical Code (NEC) and the 2015 soon to be 2018 edition of NFPA 70E.

Get the idea? Just as the world continues to turn, with or without us, technology continues to change at a very fast pace. If you pause for too long, it will pass you by, and catching up could become quite a challenge. If you’re leaning against the ropes, you might as well learn them, so you can rebound faster and better.

There is an endless list of reasons for keeping your skills and knowledge up-to-date in the electrical industry. One reason is that many licensing boards require a contractor to attend a minimum number of hours of training each year, often referred to as continuing education. A participant receives credit known as professional development hours (PDHs) or continuing education units (CEUs). However, one of the best reasons is simply to stay current with the latest technology in the electrical industry.

What do competitive companies recognize that others do not?

They know that keeping up with technology is one of the keys to staying ahead of the competition, for when the economy is healthy, they will be out in front. But how do you keep skills current on a limited (or nonexistent) budget? Here are creative ways for learning, consisting of free or inexpensive programs; some of which can be taken outside normal working hours, during lunchtime or evenings.

Conferences and Conventions

Conferences and Trade shows can provide the ultimate in brain overload. They are the best places to learn where the industry is and where it’s going. Every year major organizations—such as the National Fire Protection Association (provider of the NEC) and others—-hold an annual convention. At these events, you can find a tsunami of resources about cutting edge trends, products, codes, standards, workshops, and much more. Additionally, these events are great places to meet, network, and mingle with industry leaders.

Media and Books

Training DVD’s, online video’s and books provide the opportunity to learn new material when and where you want, at your own pace. You didn’t understand something that was said? Review it. The wide variety of DVDs, books, guides and other resources can be used to provide more in-depth knowledge about a specific subject. This approach to learning can be a very low-cost method, because once one person is done with the program, it can be passed along to someone else.

Training Seminars

Training seminars often come to mind when thinking about continuing education. Generally held in a hotel conference room or at a company’s training facility, seminars are available on just about every topic imaginable, such as, Arc Flash Analysis Training, Arc Flash Engineering, Electrical Safety Training, How to Build an Arc Flash Protection Boundary and so much more. The trick is to find the right program. Not every training seminar will be the same for a particular subject. Some might be geared toward the technical end of the spectrum while others are more basic. Some seminars may be a veritable avalanche of information from industry experts.

These programs usually last anywhere from half a day to an entire week. Ensure you do your homework to find the program that is right for you. A training seminar can provide an excellent format for bringing a person up to speed quickly.

On-site Training

One of the best methods is to hold the training program at your company’s location because it can be tailored toward specific needs. You have the speaker and their expertise all to yourself. Although this approach can be more expensive, there are ways to minimize the cost. By opening up the electrical industry on-site training to others, such as business partners, clients and guests, the host company can charge a registration fee, so the cost can be spread out among many different groups.

Online Training

Also known as computer based training (CBT) or e-learning, online training is a form of instruction completely on the internet. It incorporates a variety of multimedia elements, including graphics, audio, video, and web-links, which all can be accessed through one’s internet browser.

In addition to presenting course material and content, online training gives you the opportunity for live interactions and real-time feedback for such things as quizzes and tests. Interactions between instructor and students are also conducted via an online medium, through such methods as chat, e-mail, or other web-based communication. An example of online training is the IEEE e-learning library https://www.ieee.org/education_careers/index.html

To be continued in next weeks second part of this series: Keeping Skills Current with FREE Training.

 

About Jim Phillips: Electrical Power and Arc Flash Training Programs – For over 30 years, Jim Phillips has been helping tens of thousands of people around the world, understand electrical power system design, analysis, arc flash and electrical safety.

 

Jim is Vice Chair of IEEE 1584 and International Chairman of IEC TC78 Live Working/Arc Flash. He has developed a reputation for being one of the best trainers in the electric power industry. Learn More

 

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