Q&A: Mike Backler, Crestron EMEA Training/CSP manager on industry certifications
Tim Kridel finds out why Crestron's Mike Backler believes clear and credible certifications are important in the AV industry.
TK: What are some trends in pro AV training, certification and professional development? For example, as AV products get more complex, are vendors requiring integrators to have more training than in the past in order to properly sell and support them?
MB: Currently we're seeing a large move towards online training. It's more accessible and allows us to reach out with more focused trainings on particular products. It allows customers to access the training when they have time and to access more trainings than might be available in their location.
We are also finding some of the more complex systems require specific training. Crestron’s DMC (Digital Media Certification) programme has been a massive boost to AV technicians in setting a level for competency regarding HDMI and digital video distribution. We're planning to enlarge the scope of this certification this year with the DMC-S which introduces the concepts of Streaming video to remote locations and the requirements and technical issues associated with that kind of infrastructure.
TK: Is the AV industry as a whole doing enough when it comes to training, certification and professional development? If not, what are some gaps that should be filled? And who should be filling those gaps? Individual vendors on their own? Or should it be an industry effort led by organisations such as InfoComm?
MB: The AV industry needs to self-police a little more. The current requirements to become an AV dealer are a bag of tools and an accepted quote from a customer. People coming into AV should have a core level that we expect them to have. What that level is isn't going to be constructed by an organisation such as InfoComm entirely but a made up of classes from different vendors and organisations. Look at the basics of what we do and build a basic profile of an AV installer. Make sure the company is holding itself to higher standards and make sure that the company is able to meet those standards before allowing them to purchase and install equipment.
Minimum requirements to become an AV installer should be: Essentials of the AV Industry, CTS and other variations for design and installation, DMC-E-4K (Crestron's DigitalMedia Certified Engineer), CCNA for networking, MCSE [for] an understanding of IT and Microsoft.
TK: In your experience, do enterprises and other clients understand and value AV certifications such as CTS? In other words, are they critical for helping integrators and consultants win projects?
MB: They can, but they are generally done when guided by the consultant. We've seen Crestron Certified Programmer being a requirement to win proposals coming from big business along with DMC-E-4K which has also made an appearance. CTS is nearly never required but that's not to say it's not something we as an industry shouldn't be trying to encourage. Any form of qualification is an attempt of the student to make themselves more informed and therefore a better installer. We should encourage and support installers, programmers, designers to attain a quality standard that sets our industry apart from the guy with a bag of tools and a van.
TK: In your experience, do enterprises and other clients prefer AV integrators and consultants who have IT certifications such as CCNA? In other words, are they critical for helping integrators and consultants win projects? Or are clients typically more focused on AV expertise even when some or all of that equipment will piggyback on their IT network?
MB: Yes, not just because they show a competency for IT based systems but also because they are more recognisable qualifications that the AV/IT management are more likely to have encountered. For bigger corporate customers, the AV becomes/is part of the IT department portfolio. Hence these customers want to communicate with the AV integrators in the language they speak: IT.
Despite our successes the AV industry is still relatively small compared to other technical fields. The qualifications we have are largely unrecognised and it's up to the industry as a whole to build a base level of competency that we can hold AV technicians to.