David Long, president of the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA), welcomed President Donald J. Trump to the stage at this year’s NECA 2018 Closing General Session in Philadelphia on October 2. Long presented the President with a special hard hat, featuring the Presidential Seal, an American flag, and the NECA convention logo. Prior to putting the hat on, the President joked, “I don’t want to put it because I’m afraid I’ll mess up my hair.” This, of course, drew widespread laughter from the entire audience.
The President’s 38-minute speech touched on many topics; however, his comments on job growth and vocational training are key issues for NECA and its members. For example, earlier this year, President Trump established the National Council for the American Worker. The Council is charged with developing a national strategy for training and retraining workers needed in high-demand industries. Companies and trade groups were invited to sign a Pledge to America’s Workers — committing to expand programs that educate, train, and reskill American workers from high-school age to near-retirement. NECA was one of those organizations that committed to help create 60,000 new jobs in the next five years.
After sharing a few key economic figures, the President told the audience that America’s economic revival would not be possible without the men and women in the room. He went on to say, “We’re truly grateful to our electricians, wiremen, lineman, engineers, technicians, journeyman, contractors and apprentices.” He then quipped, “Oh apprentices -- I love that word,” which once again prompted laughter from the crowd.
Drawing from his experience as a real estate developer, the President praised the work being done by NECA contractors across the country. “I know from firsthand experience that America’s electrical contractors are the best in the world,” said Trump. “And now you have a friend and ally in the White House.”
At one point during his speech, the President asked a couple members of the audience to join him at the podium to share their thoughts with the group. The first person he called upon was Stacy Wilson, president of Wilson Construction Co., Canby, Ore. This mid-sized electrical company specializes in T&D and substation work nationwide.
Wilson noted the company currently employs about 500 employees. “Thanks to Mr. Trump, the tax reforms and general confidence in the economy, I guess, we’ve really been able to invest more in our employees and grow our company in the last year,” she said.
She went on to say, “We’re investing more in our employee wages, benefits and bonuses and we’re spending millions on equipment and assets. In general, we’re just seeing a huge increase in work that is coming out. We are looking to grow about 20% to 30% more in employees in the next few months. These incentives that are good for our business are really important for our employees and the communities we work in.”
The President also called on Steve Gianatti, president of Arcadia Electric, Ridgewood, N.Y. Gianatti praised the President for his efforts thus far and said this has enabled his company to bid on more work and take on more jobs. His 120-employees are currently busy with work, and Gianatti plans to add an additional 30 workers to his team next year. Before he left the stage, he thanked the President for the changes he’s making on the economic and regulatory front.
The President then shifted his focus to education and training, maintaining that it’s time to bring back vocational training in this country. He noted his Administration is making a historic investment in workforce development. “I recently signed a bill to provide more than $1 billion annually for vocational education,” said Trump.
Adding that employers across the country are signing this pledge to expand job opportunities, he said that 60,000 Americans will now have access to apprenticeships and on-the-job training thanks to NECA.
Next, President Trump invited Leam Nicholaides, an apprentice for Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) in Philadelphia, to the stage. Nicholaides is an Air Force veteran and National Guardsman.
In a relaxed and casual manner, Nicholaides drew laughter from the President and the audience alike when he said, “As an apprentice it’s pretty easy schedule. Monday, you wake up at 4:20 in the morning. Tuesday, you wake up at the same time and give a speech in front of a couple thousand people and the President of the Unites States.”
The session ended with the President thanking everyone in the room for their investment in America’s future and their devotion to the American worker. “You power our homes and light up our skylines, and you make the glory of America shine for all the world to see.”