August 18, 2020
By Blake Marchand
ECAO recently launched a new program called Future Leaders Advisory Council (FLAC). Their inaugural meeting was held virtually this past June. Discussing the thought process behind FLAC, ECAO Executive Director Graeme Aitken explained there were a number of factors that went into the decision. The program is meant to be a resource for young professionals in the electrical industry for networking, building professional development skills, mentorship, and learning about the inner workings of the industry in general. It will also help invigorate ECAO by bringing new perspectives into their committee structure. But ultimately, Aitken said, FLAC’s direction will be decided by its members.
“Simply to provide new opportunities for young professionals and to encourage them to participate in ECAO and their local electrical contractors association, it lets them learn, experience, and contribute well before it’s their turn, so to speak, to assume the bigger leadership roles in the organization,” said Graeme.
Providing a networking platform plays into that as well, “as they get to learn about each other, meet each other, interact with each other as they’re coming up to take on those significant leadership roles in our industry, they’ll have that networking done. We think that it will be beneficial to them with respect to the soft skills that, quite often, contractors don’t have the time or the resources to provide.”
As Aitken mentions, FLAC is meant to introduce young ECAO members to the organization and help prepare them to take on leadership roles with ECAO, their own companies, as well as the broader industry. Giving them the opportunity to influence the program is perfect preparation for that. “The key is going to be FLAC’s vision for the program,” said Aitken, “how do they see enhancing offerings to their members and our members? How do they see a contribution to ECAO and our various communities?”
“I think the really important vision is theirs.”
ECAO will also look to collaborate with other organizations that offer similar programs, like NECA and IBEW.
“We’re working on getting our folks a joint meeting with them (NECA), as well as our labour partners IBEW, they have what’s called the NextGen Committee. So, we are hoping we can get all of the young leaders in our industry together.”
“The interaction of labour partners and affiliate partners with our future leaders will be really important as they come up through the ranks. The early opportunity for these people to collaborate with those NextGen people from IBEW and the current leadership of the IBEW will be a real benefit to our industry, to their companies, and to them as individuals.”
Looking at it from a broader lens, programs like FLAC, Aitken explains, can be crucial to the progression of the industry in general by, “paving the way for the success of generations of industry leaders.”
In a way, providing the infrastructure for the transmission of knowledge from one generation to another, particularly pertaining to the soft skills and leadership skills that contractors often don’t have the time or resources to offer.
“As we promote them and let them develop what it is they are going to be, I hope what we will see is them reaching out as they move along in their careers, to more and more younger leaders.”
“I’ve been in this industry since the 1980s,” Aitken explained discussing his own experience coming up in the industry, “and I always looked around at all these events I went to and thought, ‘where are all the young people’. Now I have an opportunity to help pave the way for those young leaders, to get them involved sooner.”
“One of the things our industry suffers from, as do many of my colleagues in other industries, is the fatigue factor,” he elaborated, “you’ve got that small nucleus of people that are continually involved and there’s fatigue.” New perspectives bring new ideas and a constantly evolving industry needs that kind of invigoration. “So, if we can broaden the base from which we draw people, broaden the base of people who we can rely on to do different tasks and undertake different initiatives, then I think we’re all much better for it, and the young leaders, in particular.”
Following FLAC’s Inaugural meeting in June, ECAO put together a virtual meeting for FLAC with Ontario’s Associate Minister for Small Business and Red Tape Reduction for the Ministry of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade, the Honourable Prabmeet Sarkaria, “just to introduce them to dealing with political figures and expressing their views to him and his office,” said Aitken.
Aitken also noted their AGM (Annual General Meeting) is coming up September 17, which all ECAO members are invited to attend. And on the afternoon before their AGM they are holding a virtual social event.
Ultimately, FLAC will facilitate the sharing of best practices, and a space where young people can develop and express their opinion on the industry’s direction. Aitken notes this industry is constantly evolving, there is rarely a definable ‘normal’. Particularly as we transition into a more electrified future.
“We’ve been resilient, and, in some areas, we’ve been ground-breaking in our 70-plus year history,” said Aitken of ECAO, “So, I’m not sure what ‘normal’ is because we’re moving all the time. The creation of FLAC, in my view, will provide ECAO and our community with those additional ideas and outlooks to deal with what- ever the future does hold.”
Blake Marchand is an Associate Editor with Kerrwil Electrical Group.