Integrated systems technology has become one of the hottest markets for trained, qualified electricians.

The 3rd Annual Voice-Data-Video (VDV) Expo and Conference March 11-13 in the Las Vegas Hilton, brought together the latest VDV technologies, education and information in one place.

"This event is only in its third year. It is still in its infancy - evolving and growing. There was some speculation as to how well we would fare this year in light of the economic crisis, terrorism and war," said NECA Director of Public Relations Emilio Rouco. "Any doubts were quickly laid to rest on the opening day. The Expo floor was packed with more than 1,700 visitors and the coinciding IBEW/NECA Conference was filled to capacity."

Technology and Training
On opening day, throngs of NECA and IBEW members bustled onto the VDV Expo exhibit floor to see the industry's latest tools, equipment and software.

Seventy exhibitors enjoyed heavy traffic as 1,700 people packed the floor. The Expo's shortened hours, adjusted in answer to comments from the 2001 event, seemed to agree with everyone, exhibitor and attendee alike.

It has been said before that there is a real and serious hunger among NECA members for knowledge about the VDV market and its tools and techniques and comments from exhibitors in 2002 seemed to support the notion. Bob Levin, a manufacturer representative for GE Smart said, "The attendees are very high-quality in their desire to learn. They stand and listen and ask very qualified questions. The traffic was phenomenal."

Contractor interest in learning the ropes and expanding their knowledge of the VDV market was evident in the number of students registered for each course. The only challenge NECA had this year was finding room to accommodate the demand. Registration numbers were much higher than expected for this Expo's educational tracks and rooms were filled to capacity as specialists lectured on a range of subjects. Courses included such topics as: VDV Service Contracting Strategies; Successful Management of VDV Projects; Quality Assurance in VDV Projects; Successful Entry Into the VDV Market; and more.

From the seminars, contractors learned techniques for providing first-rate post-installation voice-data-video service to customers; management skills for providing the high-quality installations that VDV customers demand; and step-by-step procedures for configuring structured cabling in commercial buildings.

Visitors to the Expo and its educational courses seemed unanimous in their enthusiasm. One attendee, a BICSI member and 28-year veteran of the IBEW had this to say, "I've attended a lot of conferences and I was very impressed. The VDV Expo is equal to any other and the classes are better, by far, than any I have taken at any other show." He went on to say, "I personally launched the datacom division of my company and the information here was so relevant and presented in a concrete, straight-forward fashion. I just took notes and listed how I could apply the information directly to my customer accounts." The gentleman, who works for an electrical-contracting firm, mentioned how valuable quality training has been to his business saying that he had recently won a $650,000 contract over competing, lower-bidding VDV/systems contractors based on experience and quality and not price.

According to NECA Exposition Sales Manager Beth Ellis the 2003 Expo is well on its way to selling out. Steve Schultz, director of convention and exposition, NECA, said "It was a great show in a trying time. Its importance to our industry was evident in the high attendance numbers of both the classes and the Expo."

The VDV market is something that NECA and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) have recognized as the growth area of our industry. Each year, the Expo is held in conjunction with the IBEW/NECA VDV Conference. The conference brings together management and labor to discuss the direction in which the industry is headed and the action needed to keep ahead of the game when it comes to the VDV market.

The IBEW/NECA VDV Conference is an important opportunity for a strategic meeting of the minds, and it drew the top leadership from both the IBEW and NECA.

IBEW International President Edwin Hill opened the conference with a forceful speech, leaving no doubt about his stance on where organized labor must head to remain viable in this market. "We need to focus more on the VDV market... and planning how we are going to move ahead," said President Hill. "We must pull together - employers and tradesmen - to address this industry. We must seize the future together as partners - NECA and the IBEW."

John Grau, NECA CEO, spoke of the combined efforts and teamwork it took to get the VDV Expo and Conference up and running.

"We will remain focused on the future. We will continue to follow our course, expanding educational opportunities and providing training for a strong VDV workforce," Grau said.