Training and certification for a career in AV

David Willie, head of communication and collaboration technologies at Saville Audio Visual says that more can be done to increase awareness of AV specific certification. He talks to Tim Kridel.

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?

DW: I think there are a variety of routes. Some via university or college undertaking a relevant technology course (IT, electronics, media production, etc.). Some via becoming a customer of Saville in a related role (as I did as an AV/IT manager in a large university). Some via associates working within the industry already. Some via the IT route you describe and some via recruitment marketing the industry. I think what makes the AV industry so interesting is the diversity of people who work within it and the diversity of reasons they joined the industry.

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?

DW: I’m not sure CTS qualified organisations are high on the initial priority list when clients are looking for potential suppliers. I think it should be, but I don’t think it’s widely known about by some decision makers. Buyers of AV technology vary widely and they are not necessarily AV professionals themselves.  

I think there are a number of integrators such as ourselves that regularly showcase our accreditation and talk about the level of training undertaken to become qualified. I think only with integrators and the wider industry promoting these professional qualifications will it progress.

TK: What can pro AV learn from IT in terms of accreditations?

DW: I think this is a difficult one, and it’s not easy to compare. For example, within IT, you have a few major global dominant manufactures such as Microsoft, Cisco, Apple. These are the organisations that have driven from their partner base up the importance of training and qualification. Microsoft, Cisco, etc. insistence that individuals and resellers need to undertake formal qualification training to gain access to their portfolio has been the foundation of formalising/accrediting the industry. More and more, now recruitment is focused on attracting people with Microsoft and Cisco qualifications than in some cases formal university degrees. We have similar training and certification programs within the AV industry, but none can really match the likes of Microsoft, Cisco and Apple in terms of global recognition and appeal. 

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? 

DW: As per my previous answer, in part yes. More and more technologies are network centric and require a detailed understanding of network and software architecture. Certainly in the fast-paced and rapidly changing world of communication and collaboration solutions, it’s absolutely pivotal and a fundamental requirement that employees have this skillset from day one.

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?

DW: I think the key to progressing and developing accreditation within the AV industry is to promote one or two key qualification-awarding bodies. Once the wider customer base recognises and understands the value these accreditations provide, then it might be the time to introduce more. At this point in time, I think the challenge is to get the sector recognised via a smaller number of professional bodies. The more we have the more diluted and fragmented the industry will appear from the outside and the least customers will focus on it.

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

DW: I think that all manufacturers who provide training/certification within the industry should ensure their courses count towards CTS points. This isn’t always the case. Some do. Some don’t. 

I know from personal experience after undertaking a substantial amount of technical and sales training from collaboration and UC manufactures such as Microsoft, Cisco, Polycom, Lifesize,  Avaya, ShoreTel and Smart, to name a few, none have contributed to renewing my CTS.  I now need to undertake more general AV training to receive the necessary points. Perhaps if industry-leading manufacturers helped ensure their courses contributed to the likes of CTS points, the wider industry community would benefit, and we’d be a substantial step forwards to recognition of these professional industry qualifications.  

David Willie 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 and Graeme Massey, managing director of AV recruiter JacobsMassey

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