How many open positions are there at your company? We’re willing to bet that trying to find good, young audio visual talent is like finding a needle in a haystack.
AV programs in voke/tech schools, colleges and universities are few and far between, and most of them are in urban areas and far away from a lot of integration firms.
As one Midwestern integrator told me, he’d have a hard time convincing graduates to leave an urban metropolis and move to Platteville, Wis., the largest city in Grant Count with a population of about 12,000.
Now, the question becomes: how can integrators form partnership and develop an AV workforce pipeline in their local area?
It can be done, but it will take time and resources.
Initiative the conversation
Your local educators don’t know about your workforce needs — unless you tell them.
“A big thing is taking that first step to initiate and start a conversation,” said Eric Burks, president of North Central Kansas Technical College.
The college doesn’t have a specific AV program, but does have some components of an AV curriculum within it’s IT program. Last year, the school was named to Forbes’ list of top 25 two-year trade schools in the country.
By their very nature, educators — especially colleges and universities — want to work hand-in-hand with industry. That is multiplied if the prospective industry partner is willing to invest in that partnership.
Those conversations typically center around the workforce needs of the industry, like the number of graduates that would be hired by one given company and their competitors. Schools need to know that their investments in any given industry will pay off.
If you’re just looking for a few more technicians and designers, pitching a full program wouldn’t get you anywhere, Burks said.
“We can’t start a program for a couple students for one company,” he said.
If the company has the backing of industry trade groups — like AVIXA or NSCA — it’s an easier sell, Burks said.
Donate your time and expertise
Educators are great at one thing — educating. However, they aren’t all audiovisual experts. We’re willing to bet that a lot of them have a hard time getting the projector to work.
According to Anthony Benoit, President of the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology in Boston — one of 21 educational partners listed on AVIXA’s website — integrators also need to offer their wealth of knowledge about the industry to help shape the curriculum.
Speaking of AVIXA, the trade group already offers a thorough outline of what an audiovisual program should look like through the AVIXA foundation. (Consider reaching out to AVIXA and NSCA as you create these educational alliances.
Benoit — as well as Burks — said industry should take an active part in educating students for their workforce.
“Sometimes that involves finding someone within the company to serve as an advisor or even teach a class,” Benoit said.
Donate the hardware
One of the biggest challenges in the industry is ending the life of outdated AV hardware. Much of it can be recycled, donated to charity or just sold for cash.
However, both educators we spoke to said donating the equipment to education partners
At BFIT, the school was given equipment that once graced the halls and classrooms of Harvard University after Massachusetts-based integrator Communications Design Associates upgraded the renowned institution’s audiovisual hardware.
For a level of Harvard University, the equipment was considered obsolete, but it could still help students understand the fundamentals of AV.
“For a teaching purpose, it’s great,” Benoit said. “it doesn’t need to be the very latest thing.”
At North Kansas — where Burks highlighted the school’s nursing program — local hospitals routinely donate medical equipment that can no longer be used in an actual surgical room.
“They would still be great teaching tools for our students,” Burks said. “We don’t want items splatted in blood … but if we’re just talking about 10 items they were going to throw in the trash — just put them in grocery bags and give them to us.”
Educators aren’t the only ones investing
If you think schools can pick up the tab for the course and equipment themselves, you’re very wrong. Most schools will say they’re underfunded, especially if it’s a public high school.
They can only do so much, and it’s you that needs help. The burden should also be on integrators to help build that pipeline, and that burden also includes financial considerations.
“Obviously, we’ll take a check if someone wants to underwrite a program or pay a teacher’s salary,” Burks said.
Industry partners must also realize that they’ll have to pay more for an educated entry-level worker.
“Too many companies want a 10-year veteran coming out of a six-week program to work for minimum wage,” Burks said. “If you’re going to spend two years in school, you’ll come out with that skill set and demand a higher salary.”