Donald Trump has been in office for over a month now, and everyone wants to know how his presidency is going to affect the economy and business. AV professionals are particularly anxious about whether an economy under Trump is going to bring businesses the new talent they need to survive in an ever-evolving industry.
Well, AV business leaders and industry workers, there’s good news and bad news. Let’s start with the bad.
Skilled Workers Are and Will Be Expensive
At NSCA’s Business and Leadership Conference in Chandler, Ariz., Chris Kuehl, an economic analyst and managing director of Armada Corporate Intelligence put it simply — “There is a shortage of qualified workers. We don’t have people going into these professions, and that makes the skilled worker that much more expensive.”
Then there’s inflation.
“We’re looking more at inflation than we have in the past, and we’re seeing it from nontraditional places. Inflation is coming from wages,” said Kuehl.
With wages increasing, businesses are faced with not only providing wages that will be acceptable to workers, but they also need to be high enough to compete with other firms.
“If you want to keep other people from recruiting your employee, you have to pay them more too,” said Kuehl.
The AV industry has and will continue to face recruitment challenges due to the lack of talent, and the expense of talent, in the workforce, and there really is no simple solution to the problem.
“The classic argument people make is if you’re short people, why don’t you just pay them more? Our margins don’t allow [us to do that]; it’s expensive to run a business,” said Kuehl.
Kuehl adds that R&D budgets are off the charts in the AV industry, leaving little room in the budget for the recruitment costs.
So, what can the industry do about it? The ultimate bad news is that a short term answer does not exist. However, there is a long term solution, and it starts with education.
It’s All About Awareness
“I’m willing to bet 90 percent of students have no clue what you do as integrators,” said Kuehl. In order for the AV industry to survive in the upcoming years, students are going to have to start learning what AV is all about, starting at a young age.
“We need to educate kids and parents as to what people actually do for a living,” said Kuehl. “We need to be more attentive to the nontraditional educational process. Twenty-five percent of the population is kinetic learners. That’s not a sector well addressed in education we need to get back to those days.”
Currently, schools can’t afford the tools and resources to teach students AV technology. This is where the government can be of help.
Kuehl provided the following graphic regarding how the government can address the supply of qualified workers:
Education is important, but so are government incentives for training employees. Kuehl said if the government can give businesses tax breaks or other incentives for training workers, businesses may be more motivated to put the time and cost into training,
How Millennials Can Help
While Millennials have given the baby boomer generation the impression they are lazy and hesitant to work hard, the fact of the matter is Millennials are entering the workforce and they’re here to stay. They’ll also be the ones taking over your business one day.
At the PSNI Super Summit in Dallas, Tex. in February, Brian Beaulieu, an economist with ITR Economics, shared his own insights on the 2017 economic forecast, and made it clear that Millennials can do more for the AV industry and the business world in general than business leaders may think. Businesses just have to learn how they operate.
“Millennials are smart. They can take processes apart and come up with a more efficient process. They’re going to work weird hours and you’re going to have to live with that,” said Beaulieu.
Beaulieu also said that Millennials will be more likely to quite than generations prior, so business leaders must show Millennials a career path in their business.
“Show them how your business is more than just what they see. They like philanthropy, they want to be involved in something that’s doing good,” said Beaulieu. Even bringing in lunch twice a month can keep Millennials around, according to Beaulieu.
Millennials’ consuming trends are also beneficial to their roles as AV professionals.
“The Millennial is different as a consumer,” said Kuehl. “Boomers wanted stuff. Millennials are experience buyers. They buy concert tickets, they travel, they eat at restaurants. They are more nomadic.” Perhaps most important, “they are in tune with electronics of their world,” said Kuehl.
Having more experience with technology than the generations before them have allowed Millennials to develop innovative and creative minds. If the AV industry can recruit and keep this generation of workers around, they’re businesses can survive and flourish in the future.