Sneak Peek at NSCA’s Plan to Reach High School Students and Ignite Fire on Recruitment

A pre-2016 Business & Leadership Conference look at why NSCA started, stopped and then accelerated its Ignite recruitment program.

If you attended this year’s NSCA Business and Leadership Conference, the 2015 edition, you might remember executive director Chuck Wilson talking about a new program aimed at educating students about the AV integration industry and fostering recruitment possibilities.

That was in February 2015. Since then, you most likely haven’t heard much about Ignite, the program Wilson teased, and there’s a good reason for that.

NSCA Education Foundation got pretty close to launching the Ignite program, which aims to generate interest in technology by connecting local high school students with manufacturers, dealers and integrators and to spark imagination and encourage students to consider new career paths in the industry. Then it took a step back.

“They realized that nobody on the board was actually young,” quips Kelly Perkins, marketing and communications manager for AVI systems and part of a recently created three-person NSCA Education Foundation committee focused on developing Ignite.

Perkins is joined on the committee by fellow Commercial Integrator 40 Influencers Under 40 alum Michael Shinn of IMS Technology Services and Chief and Milestone‘s Laurie Englert.

Watch Chuck Wilson respond to an NSCA Member Question of the Week posed by CI editor Tom LeBlanc about why recruiting is such a challenge for the AV industry:

Phase one of the retooled Ignite rollout includes Perkins, Shinn and Englert spending time on the phone, surveying and picking the brains of high school, vocational school, technical school and four-year college administrators and trying to figure out what will work and what won’t in terms of outreach to potential next-generation integrators.

Invariably, they’re getting the same answer, which is that the AV industry seems compelling for their students and they’re open to learning more. “They’re more than willing to work with the industry and it’s just that nobody has approached them about it before,” Perkins says. “They’re hungry for it. Some of the people we talked to were so enthusiastic, more so than we expected them to be.”

The goal of the Ignite program is essentially to bridge that awareness gap and make students aware that the AV industry exists, that it’s exciting and that it offers tremendous career opportunities. Part of the plan it so bring students from local schools to NSCA regional events in 2016 and have integrators and manufacturers participate in generating excitement and encouragement around the industry.

Related: Are Your Employees’ 4-Year Degrees Overrated?

Part of the challenge, Perkins says, will be finding dynamic and engaging ways to connect with students. “You’re dealing with kids who are extremely visual and you can’t go in there and give them a lecture,” Perkins says. “You need to go in there with content, something visual. That was the big thing I kept getting from them. It’s basically about marketing our industry in a cool way.”

Providing that type of exciting content, collateral and talking points to be rolled out at job fairs and beyond and to get students thinking about potential for a rewarding career is AV is a big objective of Ignite.

NSCA executive director Chuck Wilson says Ignite along with ESPA and its Electronic Systems Technician (EST) certification help “provide a pipeline” into high schools and trade schools “so we can move interested students from the technical programs [and STEP programs] into the EST programs at the 20-something schools we work with and then hopefully that pipeline right into our member companies.”

Look for much more about Ignite at NSCA’s 2016 Business & Leadership Conference and beyond as the program is expected to officially roll out in 2016. Register now.

Related: Do Young, Tech-Trained Professionals Want a Career in AV?