If you have attended any leadership conference in the audiovisual industry in the last few years then you’ll know that there has been one very dominant topic of conversation: where do we find new AV talent? This industry seems to be particularly well known for not being well known. The old adage that many people just fall into this industry by accident as they either knew someone that was in it or transitioned from the more artistic sister industries of music and film. This fact, though, is primed for a change and the injection of new blood that many have be clamoring for is on the way.
InfoComm International has been working tirelessly behind the scenes for the last several years establishing the educational foundation that allows for people to take the knowledge gained, enter the field and then apply that knowledge as they develop their career. This framework is what the industry insiders know to be the CTS preparation coursework. This base of knowledge gives anyone that takes it a good starting point as they enter the audiovisual industry. Even with this developed program, though, there has still been the issue of broadcasting the opportunities that exist in AV to the people seeking them.
Speaking with Betsy Jaffe, Sr. VP of Member Services at InfoComm, she talked about the concerted effort that InfoComm has placed on getting more colleges and universities to include programs, augment existing programs, and even including CTS prep in their courses to highlight the industry that always seems to live under the radar. As she and the InfoComm team have toured the country bringing more local events to the regions, Jaffe has also taken time to sit down with community college districts and other university staff to talk about the possibility of working with InfoComm to utilize the coursework that has been developed for the industry.
At this point Jaffe says that well over 30 institutions have expressed an interest in working with InfoComm to start offering this coursework. Some may even begin offering the materials as soon as the 2016 fall semester. The beauty of this development is that the colleges and universities each get to pick how they want to offer the coursework. Some might not have anything currently in place that would compare to these materials so they can work directly from the CTS prep courses. Others, though, might have existing entertainment or broadcasting programs that they want to expand and make more robust. Adding the CTS prep course to their curriculum means that when the students graduate they don’t just finish with some kind of degree, they also finish with a professional certification that allows hiring agencies that require that baseline of knowledge a fresh pool of candidates, specifically ones that would be able to step into a new company and expedite the timeline in which they can offer a significant contribution.
“One institution at a time we are educating these institution leaders that AV is a career,” says Jaffe, and the industry can begin to inhale that possible sigh of relief as finding qualified individuals to help grow their companies might finally not be the struggle it has been in over the last several years. The coursework that InfoComm is offering is coming to these institutions for free with only one requirement. The colleges and universities that wish to use the materials must sign up as members of InfoComm. A meager request given the weight that InfoComm certifications have due to their ANSI accreditation, giving concrete knowledge to the providers that the students can work in the field once they have completed their schooling.
It goes beyond just the educational institutions, though, as InfoComm is also working directly with state agencies throughout the country on how to provide jobs to underserved communities. In these areas it is less common to find people with degrees making job opportunities more limited. By providing these individuals the education from the CTS program, the people can acquire knowledge from a non-degreed program that can lead directly to jobs.
The AV industry is not just a knowledge based industry. It’s an industry built on practical experience and doing. The knowledge that is ascertained in the classroom is the way that people unaware of the opportunities available to them in AV can get their foot in the door, but that must then be followed by getting real world experience where they can apply that knowledge.
Jaffe highlights the work of the board, the volunteers, and the employees of InfoComm as what’s allowed the community to recognize what has become such a well-built and well-rounded program coming from the industry itself as the key to the success in reaching out to these institutions.
InfoComm isn’t alone in their outreach to gain more interest in careers in the audiovisual industry. NSCA has been developing and expanding their Ignite program as well.
The story about an organization seeking new talent isn’t a unique one anywhere in the country today. Professionals jumping from company to company has become more common and more frequent. While we’re able to inhale that sigh, the relief from exhaling will take some time. These programs are just gaining the traction to start filling the heads of the future AV professionals with knowledge and will take a little time to result in the professionals the industry is clamoring to hire. However, it’s good to know that in the next two or three years there will be a fresh pool of employees primed to take entry and mid-level positions within organizations and propel the industry forward.