Posted on Apr 02, 2008
John M Grau
Today, we find that the need for field staff services is exponentially greater than ever before. It can be a challenge for our four regional executive directors and 16 field representatives to juggle all the demands and meet all the needs around the country. So where do we go from here? Let’s start by looking at the facts:
1. Chapters and local members are continually asking for more field staff expertise and engagement. Chapter staffs are comparably smaller today than they were 20 years ago. Many chapters that used to have assistant managers don’t today. Without this training ground for future manager positions, local chapters have difficulty finding experienced managers with a background in trade association management, labor relations and NECA practices.
Also, new chapter managers are less likely to have any labor relations experience since it is so difficult to obtain. Because of this, they will rely heavily on the NECA field staff for assistance in the day-to-day challenges of labor relations and working with local IBEW representatives
Field representatives are also leading the new labor relations training programs and providing other collective bargaining education. This training aspect of their job is an important support feature for the local chapter.
2. There is a greater need for field staff interaction with their IBEW counterparts. The growth of special market recovery initiatives like the Florida Initiative throughout the country requires intensive work by IBEW International representatives and NECA field representatives. Without their constant oversight and guidance, these programs will fail. Meetings to establish an area-wide initiative, to develop market recovery tools, to set up manpower recruiting blitzes, and to guide contractors in the use of the new CW/CE categories require an enormous amount of field representative time.
Add to this support for the Code of Excellence and Industry Awareness programs, joint market recovery meetings and efforts toward multi-chapter portability.
Each NECA field representative must work with anywhere from three to eight IBEW International representatives. The IBEW has five times the number of field staff (not counting organizers) available to work on these issues compared to NECA.
3. Field Representatives are responding to more national directives. The field staffers have always been instrumental in collecting information and data that serve the broader membership. As industry information needs increase, the field representatives are being called on more often to assist in these efforts. They organize chapter board conference calls, prepare workforce development reports, gather labor agreement and labor data information for the members’ on-line database.
The field representatives are the face of the national organization at the local level. They are called on to meet frequently with local chapter staff and members to present and explain national programs and initiatives.
As NECA looks to the future and seeks the means to grow the value of the association for its members’ benefit, the role of the field staff must also be evaluated. More on what I hope will be the future of the field staff in an upcoming post.