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Power Players return from US study tour

Of all the Power Players prizes, I was especially looking forward to the overseas study tour to the US.

The trip was a fantastic experience, although there was a bit of apprehension at first. Charlie and I were the first Power Players winners (and young representatives of the UK’s electrotechnical industry) to be hosted by our trade body’s USA counterparts, NECA, and attend their hugely significant annual convention. I did not know what to expect, although I was excited to make new connections and get stuck in.

Day one was spent at the opening of the 2018 NECA Convention, which had over 300 exhibitors and 18 technical workshops where we could see the latest techniques and technology in action. The technical workshop that stood out for me was called “improving your elevator pitch”. This was a great session which taught us some basic presentation skills that I have been able to take back with me to the UK and use in my training.

On day two of our trip, we visited the East Market Street $600 million construction project in Philadelphia, kindly accompanied by Ken MacDougall, NECA’s Director of Business Development. I was surprised to find the US industry similar to ours in a few ways. Much like in the UK, US electrical businesses have strong trade unions upholding their members’ interests. Contract terms and conditions are also determined in much the same way as in the UK.


(Day two visiting the East Market Street $600 million construction project in Philadelphia, Monday 1st October. From left to right: Joe Wu, Charles (Developer), Ken MacDougall (NECA), Charlie Harwood.)

Astonishingly, on the final day, US President Donald Trump delivered a speech to the convention, which was exciting and fascinating to witness. This was the first time a US President had ever attended a NECA convention in its history, so we were extremely fortunate to be a part of that!


(President Donald Trump addressing the NECA 2018 Conference, Tuesday 2nd October.)

The differences were striking though: the US electrical and construction industry is on a completely different scale compared to ours - in the US, electrical contracting is an industry valued at over $160 billion annually, made up of over 70,000 electrical contracting firms. Rates of pay are also much higher in Philadelphia compared to London - exactly the opposite of what I expected!

I cannot express how welcoming and supportive the NECA staff were, especially Beth Ellis who really looked after Charlie and me throughout our stay – the NECA staff are a real credit to their organisation. The connections I made on this trip will remain with me for the rest of my career.

The 2019 Power Players initiative will launch early next year. Keep an eye on for more information.