Training tomorrow’s workforce

Training Tomorrow’s Workforce: One program at a time can yield excellent results.

Regardless of their channel in the AV industry, most companies have struggled at some point with the need to find and hire strong people. As today’s workforce continues to change, our industry often wrestles with where tomorrow’s talent will come from. Commercial AV, unlike the more established engineering disciplines, has never had a formal education route through accredited institutions. In fact, few people today enter this field through an intentional route beginning in college or earlier.  What are some insights on training tomorrow’s workforce?

Few programs exist that focus specifically on commercial AV design and integration. There are, however, quite a few institutions that have a closely related program, such as theater or recording studio production, acoustics or even audio sciences. Many individuals from those types of programs have found their way into this industry over the years, often due to the much wider pool of jobs from which to choose. But, rather than waiting on the ones who accidentally end up here, what if we become intentional about bringing them in?

Teaching AV Systems Design

Training Tomorrow's Workforce
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In 2011, I had the privilege of teaching a course in AV systems design at a local university in support of the school’s established degree programs in acoustics and audio science. Although I had taught seminars and given presentations in the past, teaching a full college course was a brand new experience. The preparation was, indeed, time consuming, and there were days when the thought of teaching a class in the evening after a full day at the office wasn’t so thrilling. But, in spite of all that, the actual time interacting with the students and knowing that I was playing a minuscule part in their academic development brought with it deep rewards.

Many of these students, although quite familiar with audio recording or acoustics, had little awareness of the commercial AV industry and its viability as a career path. Although they still have much to learn, they now have a foundation from which to grow and have a broader awareness of the industry and all it has to offer.

Upon graduation, the students will disperse and go different routes. Some will pursue recording, others acoustics. Some may pursue a field completely unrelated. But some undoubtedly will follow the commercial AV path. Regardless of where their careers take them, I look forward to continuing to develop those relationships throughout my career and hope I was able to play a small part in broadening their perspective.

Although many institutions may not offer programs in audio or acoustics, many do now offer programs in fields such as communications or technology. Many of us have relationships at some level with educational institutions in our communities. They may be clients or perhaps even an alma mater. Whatever the connection, we often have relationships that can be developed. Although certainly not all schools will incorporate a full course on AV design as in my situation, many programs are open to either incorporating some AV material or finding opportunities for an occasional guest presentation.

What the industry has to offer in training tomorrow’s workforce

What we have to offer is incredibly valuable both to students and to their institutions: an entire industry of rewarding jobs, creativity and strong growth. Whether comfortable teaching or not, everyone has real-life experiences that can serve as an invaluable resource to students evaluating what comes after college. If you’re uncomfortable presenting, perhaps you have an opportunity for summer internships. Not only do such efforts advance the entire industry by expanding awareness, but often they can also serve as a valuable tool for recruitment.

In addition to its many education courses, InfoComm also has extensive materials to support people in these types of situations. Much of InfoComm’s material can now be licensed and taught, so material doesn’t have to be developed from scratch. Alternatively, if you have a relationship but may not feel comfortable on the front lines, InfoComm has resources to help support those collegiate relationships directly.

As we migrate to a more networkcentric industry, our industry will shift even further from a model of physical integration to one of technical integration. This further underscores our need to establish a solid pipeline for attracting and training new talent, particularly those with strong technical skills. If there was ever a time to align the industry with the academic field, it’s now.

Although an organization like InfoComm has extensive resources to support such efforts, I believe a large part of attracting new talent begins at the grass roots level. If you serve in a leadership capacity in your company, I encourage you to identify one school or program in your community that you can impact in some capacity through AV education. Not only will you be enriched, but you might just find your next employee, as well.

Written by Tony Warner, President of Phase Shift Consulting

Originally Published in Sound & Communication