Stanton Helms isn’t a newcomer to the working world, with 13 years of experience in IT and two years of live audio experience at his Chicago-area church, but he’s most definitely a newcomer to the AV business and is excited to be among the first class of students through a new InfoComm program.
Helms, 37, is attending InfoComm 2015 after signing on to spend a year learning the ropes of the AV business through the International Communications Industries Foundation (ICIF) grant program, an initiative launched earlier this year to find new blood for the industry.
He’ll spend a year working at Zdi with lead audiovisual design engineer Jeremy Caldera, with the goal of “bringing him up the ranks as a junior design engineer” at the end of the program. Helms, who heard about the ICIF grant program through Columbia College, where Caldera teaches a handful of classes, is excited about the opportunity, but overwhelmed about everything he has to learn.
“This is the perfect time for me to follow my dreams,” says Helms, who has taken a handful of classes, gone on some booth visits and done some networking at the InfoComm awards dinner during his trip to Orlando this week.
“I’m looking for this to be a great foundation for me to continue my career in the AV industry.”
Under the ICIF grant program, which replaced the general scholarship awards of past years, companies pay a $2,000 tuition reimbursement to participate, with the other $2,000 coming through the foundation. The companies will work with their local colleges and universities to pick the students they think will best fit their needs for a paid part-time job, mentoring, attendance at InfoComm 2015 and InfoComm education and certification.
InfoComm will continue to award the $5,000 Michael Vergauwen Fund scholarship to students who are children of men or women already in the industry.
“InfoComm’s mission is advancing the AV industry and a key part of that is workforce development and attracting talent,” says InfoComm International executive director and CEO David Labuskes.
“This is a direct opportunity for us to double the work the ICIF can do and create a direct link between students and employers. That’s a lot more valuable than writing a check and never having any connection.”
For Caldera, the ICIF grant program represented an opportunity to do something he’d long wanted to do at Zdi: start an internship program. “It made sense to do it this way instead of trying to start something on my own,” says Caldera.
Caldera reviewed about 20 applications for the ICIF grant program, he says, quickly narrowing the group to three or four finalists. Helms stood out, he says, because “he’s someone taking a complete leap of faith to pursue his passion. We get a lot of people who just want a job, but the job isn’t a passion for them, so it was nice to see that.”
Caldera and Helms are still working out the details of how the year will work, but Caldera is excited to have someone with an IT background along for the ride at his AV integration firm.
“His background is very suited to what we want to do with all the talk about AV and IT convergence these days,” says Caldera.