January 04, 2013 By D. Craig MacCormack
It’s a debate that’s raged for a while now and one that sees no signs of slowing down, so it’s time to talk about the pros and cons of certification. According to the 2013 State of the Industry survey conducted by Commercial Integrator and NSCA, clients place a lot of value on manufacturer certification, and slightly less value - though still a significant amount - on earning the InfoComm CTS and not much on anything else.
Based on those results, what’s been true for years still holds true today: Some systems integrators will never see value in achieving their certification, whether that means becoming a Certified Technology Specialist through InfoComm International or earning another distinction from their favorite manufacturer, while others can’t get enough of these opportunities to learn new skills and add new acronyms to their business cards.
“That’s real consistent to what I thought,” says Chuck Wilson, executive director of NSCA. “People relate to certain things, and it’s very common for an end user to ask an integrator if they are certified resellers and certified in terms of providing warranty repair.”
New InfoComm International executive director and CEO David Labuskes, who took over the job from Randal Lemke Jan. 1, sees certification as proof “you’re invested in your career and invested in your capabilities.”
Bruce Kaufman, CEO at Human Circuit in Gaithersburg, Md., says the idea of certification rarely comes up in the company’s pitches or presentations, though. “I think past performance is all that matters to a client,” Kaufman says. “The only time certifications come up is with a consultant spec. I have rarely had a conversation with an end user and had them come back with, ‘What are your certifications?’ I don’t want to say certifications are a bad thing. Knowledge is a great thing, very important. But we have not found that certifications get a lot of emphasis from end users, and I don’t think we’ll see that going forward.”
Chris Roma sees it differently. He was one of the first people ever to earn his CTS-I, picking up the distinction 14 years ago before letting it lapse over time, and he was the first person to earn his CTS credentials at the 2012 InfoComm show in Las Vegas. Roma says he believes the certification is an increasingly necessary part of doing business today.
A trip to InfoComm’s headquarters isn’t necessary to earn credits now that several regional and online options are available. Click image to view the inside of InfoComm’s Randal A. Lemke, Ph. D. Center for Professional Development.
“It wasn’t a popular certification when I first got it, but it’s become a way to make yourself worth more to the company,” says Roma, a former U.S. Navy vet who is now director of technical sales and engineering at Headlight Audio Visual in Portland, Maine.
Roma let his CTS-I certification lapse in part because renewal units were tough to come by as recently as 10 years ago, but he soon realized he needed to be certified “to show I’m an A/V professional. I also felt like I need to be an example for others.”
To that end, Roma took the exam with Headlight Audio Visual president Andy Bruns, saying the refresher was good for both of them.
“There was a lot of stuff I had forgotten that I relearned,” says Roma.
Why Certification Matters
When Roma earned his CTS-I almost 15 years ago, he was dealing with a dial-up modem, but today’s process is much smoother. It’s become especially convenient to take the CTS test at the InfoComm show rather than making a special trip to InfoComm headquarters in Virginia. CTS has become a requirement in many jobs, says Roma.