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Where’s the Next Generation of AV Pros Coming From?

Published: 2023-12-08

Editor’s Note:¬†This article about the next generation of AV professionals originally appeared on LinkedIn.¬†Commercial Integrator¬†has republished it here with permission.

When I started in AV, the joke was that every company was created by a roadie or sound engineer who got tired of touring. Or didn’t want a divorce. Or wanted to see their children every day.

There’s a kernel of truth to that, but the industry has grown vastly. The technology has become considerably more specialized. Some folks in our Events and Integration teams began their careers on the road, but there aren’t enough bands touring worldwide to feed the AV industry’s staffing needs today.

That begs a few questions. Why are so many AV professionals ‚ÄĒ even CTS-certified pros ‚ÄĒ still self-educated? How can we keep growing when so many people in the AV industry “just fell into it”? Where are the next generation of workers in AV coming from?

Finding, Developing, Coaching the Next Generation

We’re spending a lot of time finding, developing and coaching the next generation of AV technicians at CTI. Word of mouth is one of our most successful recruiting tools. Bringing in folks recommended by our team members is a proven way to secure great people.

Part of that is culture: We’re picky about who we hire.

Part of that is because outside of the AV Industry and the folks that hire us for projects, nobody knows that pro AV is a $300 billion-dollar-a-year industry. Or that pro AV is set to grow, according to AVIXA‚Äôs 2023 Industry Outlook and Trends Analysis (IOTA), to $402 billion by 2028. That’s a lot of jobs to fill at all levels!

I’m hardly the first person to notice.

The¬†NSCA¬†Education Foundation launched its Ignite program, igniteyourcareer.org, to bring people into the industry. They’re educating potential recruits about opportunities in communications technology, what the work entails and how it can develop into a career, not just a job. They’ve created a pipeline, the Ignite Internship Program, to bring the industry together with potential recruits. The¬†Ignite Ambassador¬†program aims to bring educators together with AV professionals who can teach young people about the industry.

Pace University‘s Prof.¬†George Chacko¬†and Prof.¬†Rich Miller III, better known as the Bald AV Guys, are working on an¬†AV minor¬†through Pace‚Äôs¬†Media, Communications and Visual Arts (MCVA)¬†department. The goal? Students ready to take their¬†AVIXA Certified Technology Specialist certification and complete an internship in AV. Last month, the pair hosted an AV Talent Summit at Pace, bringing hundreds of high school (and Pace students) together with audiovisual professionals and influencers to learn about career opportunities in AV.

Looking to Recruit

AV is hardly the only industry looking to recruit. All the trades are on the hunt. One of the more fun approaches I’ve seen was posted on LinkedIn by the¬†Mechanical Contractors Association of Georgia. It’s a pair of children’s books starring “Plumber Paige”: Let’s Repair a Shower Head¬†and¬†Let’s Fix a Running Toilet. Written by¬†Paige Knowles, their mission is “to introduce the youngest minds to the world of the trades!”

It’s fun stuff, and the Association also asks high school teachers to contact them so they can educate students on the opportunities in plumbing, pipe welding and more. That’s an approach we’re experimenting with at CTI: reaching out to local schools to help make young folks aware that AV events and integrations exist and offer a fantastic trade, profession and career.

We’re not quite ready for children’s books yet. But reaching out to schools is a start. People don’t think of AV as a trade the way they do plumbing, carpentry, or HVAC, though we often work alongside them on jobs!

It’s not the first (second or third) thing on the mind of someone looking at getting a college degree and then going into IT or programming. That’s a shame, because AV is working more closely with IT than ever. And as AV-over-IP continues to become an even more significant part of the industry, the opportunities for programmers can only grow.

We Can Do More

As an industry, we need to change that. Ignite is a start. What the Bald AV Guys are doing at Pace is outstanding. But we can do more.

Maybe first, we find Gen Z, where they live on¬†YouTube,¬†TikTok¬†and¬†Instagram. Then we can think about that children’s book. And if you aren’t participating in opportunities to talk about the AV at your children’s school or ‘take your child to work day,’ you should start!

I’d love to hear where you’re finding the next generation in your industry. Please share below or message me. As always, if you have any AV or live events needs, please get in touch with us at CTI.


John Laughlin, CTS, is CEO and president of CTI.

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