Published: May 2017
By Jim Phillips
Part 2 of 2 Part Series
There is an endless list of reasons for keeping your skills and knowledge up-to-date in the electrical industry. These days many electrical industry-licensing boards require a contractor to attend a minimum number of hours of training each year, often referred to as continuing education. However, the best reason is simply to stay current with the latest technology in the electrical industry.
One of the biggest attractions to any program is the word “FREE.” It will draw attention to anything, and there are a lot of FREE resources out there. The following are some examples of FREE electrical industry training options and resources.
Webinars: Free webinars, and the invitations to them, are everywhere. Although some webinars may be a bit commercial, a growing number are jam-packed with the latest information about industry trends, products, methods and ideas.
Attending a webinar is as simple as logging in while sitting at your desk (or on a beach) and letting the knowledge flow from your computer to your brain. The only downside of this format is the lack of face-to-face interaction and the ability to mingle with like-minded people. However, this format can be a very efficient way to learn a lot of material over a short period of time—typically one or two hours.
“Lunch and learn” training: From time to time, equipment manufacturers and consultants will offer a one- or two-hour presentation in a “lunch and learn” format. You usually will have the undivided attention of the instructor, which provides face-to-face interaction, allowing you to ask questions, draw sketches and discuss very specific details.
Such trainings can be used to introduce a new products or technology or to present new concepts and ideas. Of course, there may be a small amount of commercialism, but given the right presenter, this format can be an economical and effective way to train a large number of people without taking too much time away from normal work hours.
Vendor seminars: Equipment manufacturers often hold seminars to unveil new products, technology and services. These types of events are usually free since there may be a bit of commercialism. However, attendees can learn a great deal of relevant information. Wanting to put their best foot forward, hosting companies usually bring in some of their top experts to share knowledge and expertise.
Trade magazines: You don’t have to go very far to find an assortment of information-packed technical publications. These magazines and periodicals are some of the best resources for keeping up-to-date. They not only pull talent from a large group of experienced writers; they also can offer information about new products, ideas, editorials and commentary. Most have free print subscriptions and also may be available in a digital format (e.g., www.ecmag.com). Spending an occasional lunchtime reading the articles is just one more way to stay current.
Plant tours: In order to demonstrate their capabilities first-hand, equipment manufacturers will sometimes conduct plant tours, which may be part of an open house or in association with an industry event. Taking advantage of a tour can provide a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to look behind the scenes, and see firsthand how a product is manufactured and learn more about it.
Local industry meetings: Many of the larger professional organizations, such as the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE https://www.ieee.org/societies_communities/index.html), also have smaller local chapters. A local chapter may hold technical meetings where industry experts are invited to speak. These events are often free and open to members and non-members. Some of the local chapters may sponsor day-long tutorials and workshops, charging only a nominal charge. These events also tend to be outside normal business hours. Attending events held by these types of organizations is only the beginning. Getting involved with their committees can greatly expand your business network.
Online discussion groups and forums: LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites have changed the way we interact and exchange information. Online discussion groups and forums, such as ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR’s group on LinkedIn or my own ArcFlashForum https://www.arcflashforum.com, are homes to a large number of people with similar interests. The primary goal is to help each other by sharing knowledge and expertise about various issues. This alternative learning method relies on the experience of a whole community of people, which is yet another no-cost method to expand your knowledge base.
Stay ahead by getting creative!
Begin by picking a good rainy or snowy day, and spend lunch logging into a webinar, reading a book or trade magazine or checking out a discussion group or forum. Sources of knowledge can be free if you look in the right places. For many of these options, the only investment is your time.
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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