Widgets Magazine

Scholarships, Internships and Education Programs…Oh My!

By Joel Hagen of Milestone (@chief_JoelH on Twitter)
Finding new talent in any field can be difficult. For AV companies in particular, competition can be fierce from other tech fields. Many technology-minded people don’t consider AV simply because they aren’t aware of it.
Daunting as it seems, it’s a challenge that must be addressed. The industry, from organizations to manufacturers, is already implementing several approaches toward recruitment. Here’s a list of several programs that are in place right now and what you can do to help.
The Hester Scholarship
The new  Hester Scholarship was funded with a gift of $25,000 from Mike and Kiffie Hester through the NSCA Education Foundation. The funding allows The Electronic Systems Professional Alliance (ESPA) and NSCA to perform outreach at recruitment events.
So far, NSCA Executive Director, Chuck Wilson, has received 19 applications from veterans looking to move into the AV industry. Recipients receive funding to get certification, training and education.
The Department of Veterans Affairs is also working to help veterans get through four-year apprenticeship programs in two years by applying related experience in the military toward requirements.
Contact Chuck Wilson at cwilson@nsca.org for more on helping veterans transition into the AV industry.
School Curriculum
Wilson also points to the ESPA efforts to add AV related curriculum to electronics or communication programs at local colleges and technical high schools. These programs allow students to graduate with a 2-year degree or certificate along with EST Certification. There are 660 students already in such programs this year in 20 different colleges around the U.S.
“That merely serves the need for installers and technicians,” Wilson said. “We are also looking at the entire industry – sales, engineers – to let people know there are great occupations to attract young talent and ex-military.”
Ignite
The Ignite program was launched in February by the NSCA Education Foundation to “spark interest in young students so they consider a career in the commercial technology industry.”
Ignite unveiled their marketing materials at InfoComm that can be used at job fairs. Ignite’s seventy-six ambassadors across the country are armed with these informational packets to show how companies and schools can get involved. The materials show the size of the industry and average compensation for entry level jobs. Ambassadors go out to schools and organizations to drive awareness and interest.
Ignite continues to build supporting resources online. Plans are currently underway for Ignite to have a career site with a job board and videos of people in the industry demonstrating what they do. This should help drive high school students to learn more about the industry and what programs they should look for as they consider college.
“Ignite’s purpose is to create awareness of the Communication Technology Industry and offer support for a fee-on-the-street approach with integrators to help create that awareness,” said Michael Shinn, VP of Customer Relations for IMS Technology Services and Ignite committee member. “Ignite is also working on other ways that we can connect people from outside the industry to employment opportunities inside the industry.”
If you are interested in becoming an ambassador, or even simply providing Ignite materials to interested job seekers or students, contact  (319) 861-8632 or email info@nsca.org.
Co-ops
Internships and co-ops provide an intensive learning opportunity for engineers, programmers, marketers and more. Co-ops in particular can help companies during the natural peaks and valleys that occur throughout the year, Shinn said.
Milestone AV Technologies began working with the University of Minnesota’s engineering program in June. The two to three semester program has students working for companies for forty hours a week. At Milestone, there are three students currently working in supply chain engineering, procurement and manufacturing engineering. The undergrads receive compensation and credit for the work.
Anshumaan Singh, a mechanical engineering student at the University of Minnesota, started his co-op at Milestone in June. For the past three months, he’s done work in purchasing, sourcing and demand management. For his next semester, he will be shifting to supply chain engineering. He learned about Milestone through the School of Engineering and said he previously has no experience in the workplace.
“I learned how the office and business runs day to day,” he said. “On a deeper level, I got a very good idea how Milestone operates and that it’s a very ideally sized company. You can see how the whole thing works.”
The co-op has given him new insight into the AV industry and all the companies that work together to support projects.
“It’s a great opportunity for students to acquire practical experience. They are working on projects that other employees would be working on. They are not sitting at a desk doing things no one else wants to do,” said Patty Heureux, Senior HR Generalist at Milestone. “For us, if we do have a position open, it could mean upon graduation we are able to offer them a position as well.”
“Most students in tech fields are interested in large, well-known companies, the medical device companies, Google, Target and so on,” Heureux said. “But working in a smaller company has advantages with opportunities to learn more because of the exposure to different areas that impact manufacturing.”
“Once they hear those things they get excited and want to know more about Milestone,” she said. “So we really have to be out there promoting when we are at the job fairs.”
Contact Ignite for more information on working with local colleges and universities in your area for internships, co-ops and more.

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