Does CTS Matter?

CTS-infocomm-1110By Gary Kayye, CTS

Almost two decades ago, InfoComm launched the commercial AV industry’s first certification designation, called CTS – Certified Technology Specialist.

Although the program has unofficially been around for years, until now-InfoComm Executive Director & CEO, Randy Lemke, arrived from Northern Virginia Community College where he served as Director of the Extended Learning Institute, the program was used sparingly and had barely 50 certified members. Originally brought in to manage InfoComm’s seminar programs as well as their outreach event called the Institute for Professional Development, he quickly engineered a future direction for all of InfoComm’s educational programs and, working with their Professional Education and Training Committee (PETC), he set out on a path to make CTS mean something more than you’ve taken some classes from some industry experts.

And, to his credit, InfoComm is now the de-facto standard in industry education.

Having served on PETC for almost 12 years and as vice chair and chair during Randy’s first four years there, I have a lot of fond memories of this process that, as I get older, I realize they not only shaped my industry future, but also impacted hundreds of my industry friends and colleagues.

However, before I go any further, I need to lay out some disclaimers:

  1. I have not spoken to Randy about this column so, some of the guesses I make in here are just that, guesses.
  2. Although I chaired the PETC as well as both the CTS-I (Installation) and CTS-D (Design) committees during the initial development of both of these programs, I was not the content expert – I was merely the catalyst to keep things moving forward.
  3. I have never used my CTS designation to gain business — I am not an integrator or a systems designer, so I assure you I have no ulterior motive in writing this.

On with my story:

I distinctly remember that first meeting when Randy was introduced to the PETC as the new educational guy and was impressed – not because of his educational accomplishments, but because of his sheer size. The guy was literally the tallest dude I’d ever seen up close. And, it served him well — I know for a fact that all of us on PETC listened to Randy when he spoke. He commanded attention — albeit some fearful attention at times.

But, what impressed us most was his attention to detail, and most of all, his vision — he wanted to bring our basic CTS out of the classroom and make it self-paced (at that time, it meant CD-based). But, Randy, and this is in 1996 and 1997, literally said he wanted us to eventually make it online (i.e., Web-based).

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that this was laughed off by some on the committee when it was first proposed. Heck, we could barely find enough people to teach in-person courses for free (as we had no money to pay the instructors), let alone get financing for a CD-ROM course.

But, less than two years later, the entire basic CTS was there — a self-paced, CD-based, and on-line tracking complete commercial video, audio and presentation education package.

Then came CTS-Install.

Then, CTS-Design.

And, it didn’t stop there. Soon, we were getting requests from all over the world to deliver more and more education to more and more people and – it all started with that first meeting of PETC and Randy in Fairfax, VA.

Now, why do I write this? Well, two reasons:

  1. I have a feeling that Randy’s going to retire soon. As I said above, I have no inside knowledge of this, nor have I spoken to Randy about this, but I just have this feeling — he’s been at InfoComm for four years longer than the average executive director stays at an association, he’s got this beach place he loves and he enjoys traveling a lot, but more with his family than professionally. And, people need to know – especially the nearly 10,000 people who take classes annually from InfoComm that it’s his vision that drive that number from merely 1,200 when he started to almost ten times that now. Randy deserves the credit for not just growing InfoComm and its shows — he did something MUCH bigger than get 30-some thousand people to attend the annual trade event — he was the springboard for educating over 40,000 people (so far) in the commercial AV market.
  2. CTS does matter. The fact is, when you pass even your basic CTS, you know stuff you wouldn’t normally know — and, moreover, it establishes a baseline knowledgeable of commercial AV that is an equalizer. And, go on and get one of the CTS-specializations and you know that much more. For example, if I were a commercial AV client, I wouldn’t consider listening to a salesperson who didn’t have the basic CTS — no matter how good he may be. I wouldn’t even consider having someone design my boardroom, meeting rooms or classrooms that wasn’t CTS-D (design certified by InfoComm) and I absolutely wouldn’t want any installers in my building that weren’t CTS-I (install-certified by InfoComm).

Doing otherwise is like contracting a handyman to build your next house.

Reprinted with permission from Sound & Communications. Founded in 1955, Sound & Communications is the premiere magazine for AV systems integrators, contractors and consultants. To subscribe or read sample articles, go to http://www.soundandcommunications.com