Creating Future #AVtweeps
A recent online discussion hit a familiar theme in AV. How do we attract people to this field? Many of the same questions and suggestions that have been discussed over the years came back up. Do credentials matter? Does credentialing help attract people? Should there be a track in a community college or trade school for AV?
I think there are some straightforward answers to the question of how we attract people to the field. First and foremost for me is to support Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. The surest way to attract new people to the field is to show that we are an industry that celebrates all types of diversity. I have written about this many times, so I will not continue to focus on that here (even though it is #1 on my list).
What I will focus on are other ways to attract people to the AV field. First, however, I think we need to recognize that the entire country is in a position right now where workers are hard to find. So, in addition to getting people into what is an unknown field, you will also need to find special ways to attract them. You will notice that I have not called it the AV trade. In fact, this is another common argument that I have. It seems that many in our field want to think of AV as a stand-alone industry and trade. It is not part of the IT industry, not part of a trade (like electric), in their mind. I do not believe that AV quite qualifies as a trade in and of itself, and when we continue to insist it does, I believe it hurts our ability to attract interest. Why? Because the AV field has so many different components to it.
What area are we looking to attract people to? A quick rundown in my head says there are programmers, installers, designers and salespeople. Each one of these areas has a unique way of recruiting people, and we need to focus on that area. Think of it, what would an “AV track” at a community college look like? What would people learn? In that recommendation, I can only guess that people are thinking of installers, and maybe some level of design. But, much of the install and design work is material that would be better suited to an electrician track. Electricians in training learn about the flow of electricity and thinking through design of such. That is really the same thing that AV designers do. In the particular conversation I was in — the argument was that electricians get paid much more than the AV field, so trying to recruit from that field is not going to happen. My argument back is pretty simple — then pay your AV installers and designers more. Really, it is that simple. If you are looking to fill a spot in your business where you expect some level of knowledge, then you are competing with other businesses and fields, and therefore you need to be competitive.
Chris Fitzpatrick from Crestron appears to be one of the best at knowing where and how to recruit people. He runs an internship at Crestron and regularly posts on social media (LinkedIn) about the success of the program. It is clear though that it is not easy work. Chris is regularly visiting colleges and representing at career fairs. Most importantly, Chris and Crestron seem to know what they are looking for. They want programmers and engineers. So — they go to computer science programs and engineering schools to attract their interns.
Additionally, the publication this blog is posted on has been fantastic at recruiting interns. While many of the interns that we see doing great work for rAVe at the trade shows, may not end up in our field, some of them do. Even if they end up going into another field, or profession, they have been exposed to what we do. They have learned what is exciting and interesting about the work. Another change some of us may have to make is to re-think how we view and treat interns. Is an intern really there to do coffee runs and all the grunt work? Today’s young professionals are not interested in spending months working for free, and doing junk work — or simply being someone’s grunt. Rather — they want to learn, be challenged, get paid and grow. Yes, they may end up with jobs that others don’t want, and that is fine — provided they are still learning while they do it. When bringing on an intern, you need to be as much their teacher as their boss.
In order to continue to fill our ranks in the AV field, we need to be less siloed in our thinking about what the field is, and how people can get interested in it. If we continue to force the thinking that “AV is not IT” and “AV is its own industry,” then we continue to fool ourselves into thinking that trade schools or community colleges would have an interest in making an AV track. By doing this, we are missing the areas where we can actually grow our field. In many ways the simplest answer to how do you attract people to my company is — make your company attractive to work for.