View from a recruiter: forging a path in AV

Graeme Massey, managing director of JacobsMassey, a UK AV recruitment company, outlines how people can forge and develop a career in AV.

TK: In your experience, how do people find out that the pro AV industry exists and decide that they should consider a career in it? For example, are some people joining pro AV because they work in IT, and with AV-IT convergence, they learn about pro AV and decide to switch careers? Are some, particularly young people, coming into the profession through vendor or integrator apprenticeships/internships?

GM: It’s a very good question. The pro AV industry, even today, still remains relatively un-known by comparison with IT. Most candidates that we work with come into the sector by referral. They may have typically studied sound, lighting, music or media and set out post-study to secure a related career. Their challenge is to find paid employment utilizing their technical as well as creative knowledge in a highly competitive ‘media world’. Opportunities to work with music artists in recording studios or film makers, for further example, are few and far between. The pro AV industry therefore affords a reality check. It is accessible and you can kick-start your career. 

There is an embryonic trend of candidates working in IT who are looking at the AV sector as a related career option. Put simply, AV offers more variety and seemingly scope for development as the two markets converge. That said, it is a trend that has some way to go if we can genuinely say that pro AV is a career of choice for IT post-graduates and professionals.  

Some certainly are coming into the profession through apprenticeships. To name a few, Focus21 and Feltech are good examples of [UK] integrators offering entry-level schemes with qualified training. Another example within the live event sector is White Light [in the UK]. They too offer apprenticeships for people wishing to develop a career in lighting, sound or staging. 

TK: Some people say many customers haven’t heard of pro AV accreditations such as CTS, so they don’t carry much weight when they’re choosing an integrator, consultant, etc. Some AV firms have responded by trying to educate potential customers about CTS, etc., and why they should hire a firm whose staff has such accreditations. What are you hearing?

GM: I think any form of accreditation is a good thing. Having a recognised qualification in the form of a CTS demonstrates the ability to assimilate technical AV information at an academic level. Similarly, it shows a personal commitment to investing in your career. That can only be positive for everyone. From the customer’s perspective, I would suggest that though the CTS may not be on everyone’s radar, hiring an accredited company and its workforce would be preferable to engaging ones that is not. 

TK: What can pro AV learn from IT in terms of accreditations? Some people say that pro AV can borrow only so much from IT because the IT world has just a few dominant vendors (e.g., Cisco, Microsoft), while AV has dozens of major vendors. As a result, they say, pro AV will always have more vendor-specific certifications than IT.

GM: Agree. Pro AV will always have more vendor-specific certifications than IT but that does not mean that they are obsolete. From a recruitment perspective, for example, the candidate who has formal accreditations specific to known AV products will always be more in demand than one who does not. 

TK: With AV-IT convergence, are IT accreditations such as CCNA now as important, or maybe even more important, than CTS when it comes to career opportunities and advancement? 

GM: That’s a difficult question to answer because it depends upon your career path. If we look at the AV systems integration market, put simply, I would say CCNA will become increasingly important. From the design, installation and commissioning of complex AV integrated systems, strong networking knowledge is crucial. If you experience lies in supporting those systems post-install then arguably CTS is more relevant. However, I would suggest that the two should not be held in isolation. I come back to the principal that all accreditations are positive career builders and once attained cannot be taken away provided you maintain their renewal requirements. That’s the point. 

TK: Does our industry have enough types of accreditations, or do we need more? If so, what should InfoComm and/or other organisations considering adding?

GM: My view is that there should be a degree in AV. If universities adopted a formal three-year course enhancing the principals founded by InfoComm, the industry profile would be significantly raised. This is not to discount hands-on apprenticeship schemes. It’s a practical skill as much as it is creative but if we had that recognition people would view AV as a professional career of choice. 

TK: How can vendor-led training/certification be improved?

GM: By allowing staff the time to attend courses. It’s a constant balancing act for any company to support their client’s needs whilst investing in their staff. Time is, after all, money. However, if a company can plan even the smallest amount of training, I would suggest that goes a long way to developing their staff. That grows the company. Which in turn comes full circle back to new talent coming into the industry. People are always keen to align their career prospects with growth. 

Graeme Massey also contributes to a wider feature on training and certification that you can read now. And you can learn more on the topic from Jon Dew-Stanley, director of Midwich Technical. 

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