It’s been well-established that recruiting young, technology-trained professionals is a challenge for the AV integration industry. After all, those desirable prospects tend not to know that there is such a thing as the AV integration industry.
NSCA executive director Chuck Wilson said as much during an NSCA webcast, “13 Secrets to Recruiting and Retaining Talent.” He said that NSCA has conducted “survey after survey and found that so few people even know our industry exists.”
NSCA specifically targeted STEM program students, which Wilson says are particularly attractive for integration firms, and found that their career ambitions are almost entirely focused on other industries such as IT, robotics or telecommunications.
Commercial Integrator conducted its own survey of mostly computer information systems majors at the University of New Hampshire – Manchester and saw similar results. Most students weren’t able to define “AV integration” even with built-in context clues and virtually no students know what InfoComm is.
The good news, as Wilson added during the webcast, is that “all the stuff we do is so cool and these young people would really enjoy working in our industry.”
Wilson is right, according to CI‘s survey. After asking questions to probe their knowledge of (or lack thereof) the AV integration industry and providing a little insight into what you folks actually do, only 10 percent of students said it doesn’t sound like an industry in which they’d want a career.
One said, “Yes, I would be interested in almost any career involving IT.” Another added, “That actually sounds pretty awesome.”
The trick, of course, is in educating young professionals and those entering the workforce about how “pretty awesome” the industry is indeed. This is a challenge that I feel many integration firms have decided is over their pay grade. I’ve heard plenty of integrators complain that it should be the trade organizations promoting and raising awareness of the industry—and that they’re dropping the ball.
I won’t go that far. I feel, based on conversations with Wilson and InfoComm executive director David Labuskes, that they both genuinely deem recruiting to be a major industry challenge and both organizations are approaching solutions in their own ways.
InfoComm is extremely focused on getting more universities to include programs that reflect and raise awareness of the AV integration industry, senior VP of member services Betsy Jaffe recently told AV Nation.
NSCA recently launched its Ignite program, which aims to arm integration firms with compelling multimedia tools that empower them to be the foot-soldiers in the awareness battle by winning over local technical schools and universities.
Integration firms should also look within their own organizations to make sure they’re set up to effectively recruit young prospects. Jill Silman Chapman of Insperity Recruiting Services, who joined Wilson on the webcast, challenged integration firms to look in the mirror.
Today’s job seekers aren’t old-school pavement-pounders; instead, they’re “consumers” shopping for a career. Integration firms need to build their career brand and then market it. Job consumers aren’t “just looking for a job, they’re looking for a brand experience” that “aligns with their career aspirations,” she said.
Meanwhile, if employers aren’t doing a good job of establishing a desirable career atmosphere and promoting it effectively, “you blow it; you’ve lost not only a potential employee but probably a brand advocate as well.”
I encourage integration firms to take the awareness battle in-house. There are a lot of great things about this industry. For most of you, getting more involved in promoting it and its career opportunities might even be therapeutic.
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