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The Power of U∞

Posted By Richard Owen, Sunday, November 01, 2009
Updated: Friday, February 08, 2013

Membership. There, I said it! Now, please don’t roll your eyes and go to the next article, because you really need to think about IAEI membership—your own and your fellow members of this organization.

As everyone is aware, the economy is in bad shape and one of the first things cut is construction. This downturn affects manufacturers, contractors, installers and, of course, inspectors. All the news from inspection authorities across the country is layoffs, furloughs, training cutbacks and other measures to trim costs when permit money is not coming in and construction is down. Every membership organization will probably lose members and IAEI is not immune to the recession.

So, if I still have a job and am an IAEI member, how does this affect me? Less membership means less dues coming into the international office, the section, the chapters and the divisions. This means that all levels of the organization have fewer resources to work with. The electrical manufacturers, testing labs and others we have relied upon for educational presentations have to prioritize their outside activities. It will be harder to get these people to a chapter meeting when the number of attendees is less than in the past. The activities of your section, chapter or division may have to be curtailed due to all these economies.

Besides the economy, another membership issue facing the IAEI is the age demographic of the members. In a 2008 member survey, 74 percent of our members were ages 46–65, while only 15 percent were ages 31–45. This percentage is not improving, it’s getting worse. This means that if our membership is 16,000 right now, in the next 15–20 years we could lose close to 12,000 members to retirement!

This does not mean we need to panic, but we have to reverse the age demographics of our membership. How? Every current IAEI member must think it’s worthwhile to belong to the organization, so we need to get that message to others in the electrical industry. The international office can’t do it alone; the sections, chapters and divisions can’t do it by themselves; individual members have to do it. Every time you renew your membership, you get a card good for a 6-month trial membership that you can give to someone else in the industry. Have you run into another inspector who is not a member, an engineer, a contractor, a manufacturer’s rep, someone who is interested in learning more about the electrical industry? How about an electrical student? Unfortunately, due to the costs we no longer have a student membership category, but if there are worthy students out there, maybe if they see the benefits of membership, starting with the excellent IAEI News, they might want to keep the information coming by joining. After all, they are training for a profession that they can stay with their entire working career.

Once you do hand out that card to someone, you’ve done your duty and you can sit back and relax, right? Wrong! The most frequent complaint we get from people not renewing their membership is that they joined the IAEI and the magazine is great, but they never heard a word from the local chapter or division, and "one of the big reasons I joined was for the local information on codes, enforcement, etc.” If you think the person is worth the 6-month trial membership, shouldn’t they be worth a call during that six months to make sure they have been contacted by the local chapter or division and they know what the meeting and activity schedule is? We can’t expect someone else to do this; if you sponsor someone, you should be doing it for more than some membership prize from the chapter!

Carry the temporary membership card with you. Carry a membership application and a copy of the IAEI News. Be a salesman, sell the IAEI to everyone: inspectors, contractors, installers, manufacturers, students. Know the membership options: if someone balks at the full membership cost all at once, let them know they can have monthly installments that equal about the same amount as two Starbucks coffees! If you can’t convince them that the IAEI membership is worth more than two double lattes with mocha per month, your sales skills need some work!

On a different note, in my travels over the years in the IAEI, I have been welcomed into many different chapters, divisions and sections. Each group treated me like a friend and I will treasure my memories of all these visits. Every meeting was different, but the one common theme was electrical safety, and I applaud everyone who is involved with the organization and the running of these meetings. You all do a very professional job and I always learned something new!

Although you won’t be reading this until after the section meetings, I am looking forward to meeting a lot of new faces and renewing friendships with some of the old ones at the section meetings. I hope the attendance numbers don’t suffer too much from the economy, otherwise my attendance will probably be used as the reason so many people were scared off!

It has been an honor and a privilege to serve on the IAEI Board of Directors and as your international president for this year; and even though I’m retiring from my job as a full-time electrical inspector, I hope to stay active in the electrical industry and especially the IAEI. I know the people following me on to the board have the best interests of the IAEI at heart, and I wish them, as well as you, all the best in the future.


Read more by Richard Owen

Tags:  Editorial  November-December 2009 

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