Why Won’t More AVIXA Members Invest $2,000 in Industry’s Future?

ICIF grant program still generating far too little interest. Why aren’t more AVIXA members trying to help young people find out more about a career in AV?

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Why Won’t More AVIXA Members Invest $2,000 in Industry’s Future?

Oregon State University's Don DeMello (center) runs a program that helps students there learn more about a career in AV. Why don't more colleges have similar offerings?

A couple of years ago, I wrote a blog that applauded the association formerly known as InfoComm International (now the Audiovisual and Integrated Experience Association) for launching a grant program aimed at helping young people learn more about the AV integration business.

In that blog, I called out InfoComm members for failing to realize the unique opportunity in front of them to pay $2,000 for a year’s worth of exposure to a potential future employees to a career they might not have otherwise have known existed.

Two years later, the AVIXA International Communications Industries Foundation (ICIF) grant program has grown, although it’s still disappointing how few association members express any interest in it.

It struck me last week when interviewing four students at Oregon State University that none of them had heard about AV in their high school days and now they’re ICIF grant recipients, thanks to Biamp’s Ron Camden mentioning it to a friend at his alma mater who happened to run an existing call center on the Beaverton, Ore., campus.

The students man the call center and troubleshoot most of the issues their professors experience, and one of the students was part of the AV installation team at one of OSU’s satellite campuses last year.

I’m also surprised how few opportunities there are on college campuses for students to get a degree in AV integration or something of the sort. I know of a few programs across the country—many of which have partnerships with AVIXA—that create classes and programs, but those are certainly rare.

During the course of my day with OSU staff and students last week, it became evident there was a definite interest in an AV career and the school had enough opportunities that some of its alumni had landed jobs with large integrators and manufacturers across the industry.

But why aren’t there more programs like this? And why aren’t more integrators signing up for the ICIF grant program? It’s a $2,000 investment for a year. Something tells me these companies, no matter how big or small, have blown more money on worse initiatives than trying to find the next generation of leaders for their companies.

Camden, a former ICIF board member, told me he connected with OSU officials in the second year of the grant program in the hopes of showing not only fellow board members, but others in the association, that the investment was well worth it. And his faith has been rewarded.

Although the grant program was originally targeted at integrators only, Biamp once again is part of the program this year. Camden seemed surprised to hear the OSU students talk about how little they knew about AV before arriving on campus, saying that’s another area where AVIXA could stand to improve.

He noted that he did presentations at local schools for a few years before letting that routine fall off his radar in favor of other, more pressing or immediate concerns he needed to address, and he expressed some regret for not having picked it up at some point.

Why aren’t more integrators signing up for the ICIF grant program? It’s a $2,000 investment for a year. Something tells me these companies have blown more money on worse initiatives than trying to find the next generation of leaders for their companies.

Camden has nothing to be sorry about, though. He understands the importance of the ICIF grant program and why it’s something more AVIXA members should be doing, and has taken action to ensure his company is involved in molding the future of the industry.

There’s an ongoing conversation about the lack of young talent in the industry—although our annual 40 Influencers Under 40 lists show it’s not totally dire—and the ICIF grants is one of the avenues that gives integrators and manufacturers the chance to rectify some of that.

I’ve written about many of the ICIF grant recipients since the program launched in 2015 and met a few of them at InfoComm shows or other industry events. They’ve all shown a genuine eagerness to learn more about the industry and possibly make it a career. Why wouldn’t company leaders embrace that?

Read next: Students: We Don’t Know AV But ‘It Sounds Pretty Awesome’

I know it’s a bit early for New Year’s resolutions, but if your company hasn’t at least researched the ICIF grant program in the past, make sure you do it before the Class of 2018 is chosen. You’ll be glad you did, both in the short- and long-term.

Or maybe you’d rather watch the leadership of your company get older, retire, and leave no one in the pipeline to keep it going for the next generation.