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Electricians make light work

A number of issues are currently at the forefront of our minds, not least of which are the effects of the global economic crisis on our members, the ongoing opportunities and challenges associated with the focus on a sustainable environment, and the roll-out of the National Broadband Network (NBN).

As the electrical and communications industry peak body for contractors, NECA’s core role is to ensure that our contractor members are supported in their endeavours to run profitable, competitive and efficient businesses, while ensuring that their needs are heard at all levels of government in relation to the policies being set and decisions being taken that may affect these goals.

Are you charging the right amount?

NECA’s 2008 Market Monitor survey of the more 2,400 contracting businesses, conducted each year to provide a snapshot of the electrical contracting sector, revealed that many contractors are charging rates that are too low to sustain their businesses, potentially harming their long term viability and the industry.

The survey showed that in each state and territory, average charge-out rates were consistently lower than NECA’s recommended rates, with many contractors charging significantly less. For example, in Victoria the average hourly charge-out rate was found to be $67 while the NECA recommended charge-out rate for that state is upward of $101. Less than 3 per cent of Victorian respondents charged more than $90 an hour for their services and almost 30 percent charged less than $60. Similarly in New South Wales, the average hourly charge-out rate is $65 while the recommended charge-out rate is between $82 and $88. More than 40 percent of New South Wales respondents charged less than $60.

As the industry’s peak body, this finding is of serious concern to NECA with its focus on the industry’s long term future and ensuring members run safe and profitable businesses, particularly in our current economic climate. We see our role as educating our members about ways to remain competitive, while acknowledging that the market is often predicated on price.

Eco-smart electricians

Typically, those contractors that are successful build their businesses on differentiating factors such as quality of service or unique skills. As more and more customers seek information and advice on the best ways to create environmentally-sound and sustainable buildings, NECA’s EcoSmart Electricians training and accreditation program is providing an important opportunity to differentiate.

The EcoSmart Electricians program trains contractors in energy efficient products, technologies and installations, enabling them to provide the latest advice to their customers (whether domestic, commercial or industrial), about the best environmentally-sound products and services to meet their needs. Those contractors who successfully complete the four compulsory modules in the training are eligible for accreditation, which provides added benefits such as up-to-date information and a point of difference that signifies their higher skills and knowledge.

This is one of NECA’s responses to the changing culture of the industry, and we have been pleased with the up-take of the program as it has rolled out nationally over the past two years.

Lighting ideas

NECA has also been advising members about the phase-out of incandescent lighting in Australia. The Australian Customs and Border Protection Services importation ban was introduced on 1 February 2009 for common incandescent lamps with a multitude of shapes and bases. The import ban does not apply to electric filament lamps that are imported as part of equipment, as well as coloured GSL lamps, silver GSL lamps, candle lamps, fancy round lamps, halogen or compact fluorescent lamps (CFL). This is a lead-up to the ban on the sale of such lamps from 1 November 2009.

NECA has been discussing with Minister Garrett’s department the subject of education and information for members who will be called upon by customers to give advice on lighting products.

A significant percentage of the EcoSmart Electricians training program is focused on lighting and the department has been working with NECA to assist in fully documenting this information in a form that can be made publicly available to consumers and installers on the web. Industrial or mining companies that are looking for advice on energy efficient lighting or other components of an installation should seek out EcoSmart Electricians accredited contractors as they will have the latest information.

National Broadband Network (NBN)

On the communications side of our work NECA, through its Communications Sector Advisory Group, has been monitoring the issue of the National Broadband Network (NBN) and the implications of the government’s announcement on 7 April of the establishment of a company that is majority-owned by the government to build an anticipated $43 billion fibre optic network.

NECA is the peak body representing the interests of electrical and communications contractors Australia-wide. With offices in every state, NECA employs specialists in industrial relations, occupational health and safety, management, education and training, human resources and technology to provide its 5,000 members with representation and support in industrial relations matters and advice on a range of topics.

For further information visit the NECA website.

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