Training and education at Midwich

Tim Kridel chats with Jon Dew-Stanley, director of Midwich Technical about how the UK AV distributor is handling training and CPD as well as what the wider industry can do to ensure training and certification in the industry is valid and valuable.

TK: Tell us about Midwich’s internship program. 

JD: Internships are a new initiative at Midwich. We have seen more frequent approaches by a variety of individuals who are interested in starting a career in the pro AV industry. They are often studying and require vocational training as part of their courses. Most have heard of Midwich Group either in the UK or at one of our international offices and would like to work with us to gain experience of products or distribution. It’s not always about technical knowledge as we have a number of functions within our business although that is a key driver for our current intern, Bastien Lemaire. 
Bastien has joined the Midwich technical division in the UK from France on a three-month internship. He is currently a second-year student at CESI Engineering school in Arras, France, undertaking a general engineer diploma via apprenticeship. His apprenticeship is run by Manganelli Technology, a reseller client of our French business, Sidev. 

This practical programme he is undertaking requires Bastien to spend three months learning a broad range of engineering topics and his desire was to do so within another culture. At Manganelli Technology, Bastien has been working as an assistant project manager, technical sales engineer and a pre-sales technician. He often interfaced with Sidev, who are a supplier to Manganelli. 

Bastien approached our group to see if we could help to provide and internship, and I was delighted to create a schedule and help. Through his internship with us, we are exposing him to an array of technical products including digital signage, collaboration, video wall processing and connectivity and control. We have aligned Bastien to a senior technical specialist in our Berkshire office and created a programme that permits him to learn about our vendors’ products and technologies, while working with our reseller and integration clients to support the implementation of them.

TK: Regarding CTS and other AV accreditation, one thing I’ve heard over the years is that many customers haven’t heard of pro AV accreditations, so it doesn’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?

JD: As a value-added distributor, we understand we must invest in our staff ensuring they are technically proficient in the products we sell. We wish to be more valuable to our partners and the channel beyond simple price, logistics and availability of any product. The InfoComm CTS accreditation scheme is a valuable asset to our business to ensure we follow an approved programme for the continuous development of our technical teams. 

Our sales teams undergo technical training, starting with the essentials of AV course, whereas our specialists undergo CTS up to CTS-D courses. We act for our vendors and provide pre-sales and post-sales support to our clients. I have noted that many end clients now request that our clients have CTS certificated engineers on their staff as part of their tender requirements. Our commitment to invest in certification for our specialists means Midwich can support accredited clients at a parity of technical competence.      

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

JD: I feel our industry is growing and not yet as mature as the required processes of the IT industry. However, with convergence, it is coming. Dare I say the industry is growing up and now becoming more professional through knowledge and accreditations like CTS. We have plenty to learn from the established IT channel, which will drive our need for professional accreditations before deployments. 

While some training can be vendor centric, broader technology training like CTS provides generalised technology training rather than product specific knowledge. As a director, I want to know that my business is credible [and that] my team are comfortable with the technology we sell and can add value to the partners we work with. To say we specialise in AV requires more than our own say so. We need to demonstrate our ability as a trusted advisor to our clients. I hope for a broader array of technology training from our industry peers in the future to develop our industry further.

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? 

JD: I would like to see more general technology and vendor specific courses available. CCNA is great if your need to know about Cisco, how it works, how to manage a Cisco infrastructure, etc. However, it’s only one part to a system. We provide AV sources and endpoints on a network infrastructure. Knowing AV and network is certainly invaluable, and I expect in time more IT specialists may learn AV, just as AV need to learn IT and networking.   

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

JD: Training and courses are continuous not finite. We continue to learn and develop as technology advances and the ways our clients deploy systems evolve. I believe we will need more courses and accreditations as our industry converges further with the UC and IT sectors.   

Jon Dew-Stanley also contributes to a wider feature on training and certification that you can read now. 

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