I hear a lot about obstacles to recruiting young, enthusiastic and educated young professionals into the AV integration market.
A common one is that AV isn’t considered a cool career path and, as such, isn’t on the radar of the generation that’s emerging from universities and technical schools.
Well-designed internship programs should help to overcome that hurdle, but I hear more about how difficult it is to launch and manage a program than I learn about successful ones.
Another obstacle is that it’s difficult for AV to compete with more well-known and romanticized technology industries. Well, Rockleigh, N.J.-based Crestron is managing to hang with Silicon Valley in the internship and recruitment department.
Crestron Internship Program: Stumbling into a Success Story
I had other objectives on a day in late May when I was visiting with Crestron contacts at the Rockleigh campus. I certainly didn’t expect to find myself in the middle of a crowded Crestron Internship Program orientation for the class of 2019.
In total, 65 young professionals began internships with Crestron this spring in various roles across engineering, manufacturing, human resources, marketing, finance, accounting and other departments, according to Chris Fitzpatrick, university relations manager for Crestron.
Young professionals might not be familiar with the AV integration industry, but once they are they can be evangelists for it.
The interns actually work in those departments. “One of the things I [tell] interns is I don’t ever want to hear you say you’re ‘just an intern,’” Fitzpatrick says. “You’re more than that. You are the next group of talented, great people that we’re going to bring into this company, but you’re also a major character in a very important story.”
The story he refers to is the antithesis of the one I described – that the industry is unappealing to next-generation talent.
Kaylie Shaffer, currently in the Crestron internship program working in the public relations department, is a great example. It never really mattered that Crestron and the AV industry weren’t specifically on her career radar. She says she associated tech careers with companies like Google and Apple, but that has changed having gotten to know Crestron. Now she describes the AV industry as one “that’s going to continue to grow” and proclaims that it’s cool to work in an industry that is “such a big part of everybody’s day-to-day life.”
That’s the thing. Young professionals might not be familiar with the AV integration industry, but once they are they can be evangelists for it. Fitzpatrick sees Crestron’s internship program as a vehicle for spreading the word about great career opportunities in AV by “continuing to get that story out to the world,” he says.
“We want to send them back to their college campus with a lot to share with their friends, their peers — that might be the next generation of interns that we bring it in 2020 — and administrators and professors that they interact with. They’re going to be the folks that help spread the word about what we do here.”
Hidden Benefits of an AV Internship Program
The other benefits of Crestron’s internship program are obvious. It’s well-documented that the AV industry has hiring and recruiting challenges. According to CI’s 2019 State of the Industry Report, the average integration firm is currently looking to hire eight employees. Crestron looks at the 65 interns starting this spring and says, “a lot of the folks who are out there right now are going to end up finding very successful careers at Crestron in the long term.”
NSCA’s Ignite program is specifically designed to take much of the process-building out of enlisting an internship program.
Incubating those employees at such an early stage of their career allows them to learn not just the unique technology that makes Crestron – and the industry – tick, but also company culture. “I personally think that there’s nothing better than homegrown talent,” Fitzpatrick says.
Of course, one reason Crestron’s internship program works is because it’s Crestron. In comparison, most AV companies don’t have the resources to nurture a program in quite the same way. Fitzpatrick’s title, university relations manager, doesn’t likely exist at many other AV companies.
However, Crestron’s program provides a successful blueprint for AV companies looking to nurture interns. Meanwhile, NSCA’s Ignite program is specifically designed to take much of the process-building out of enlisting an internship program.
The bottom line is that most AV companies struggle to find their next generation of leaders, but Crestron doesn’t appear to have that problem.