At the risk of being a bit repetitive, there really is nothing else I could write this month’s letter about than the blaring headlight of a subject you see on the cover: The Nine. But more specifically, young people in the AV industry. I’ve found it’s a topic that people are tirelessly interested in, and it’s one that I’ve always considered a bit of a pet project of mine.
I’ve already gone through lengths to describe the painstaking process in searching for young people to include in this special feature (see p. 30), so I’d like to use this space to discuss how we go about building a bridge for the future of this industry.
It’s no secret that the industry has not done a good job of creating awareness and interest. This was a recurrent topic discussed in interviews with the 2015 class of The Nine. And awareness really is the key, as put forth by Rebecca Sullins, AVDB Group. Several of The Nine had zero knowledge an AV industry existed, and yet these were some that spoke most passionately about it. Starting at the college level—or earlier even—was a constant theme. It can’t be all that difficult to work with local or national education institutions to promote the job opportunities in AV and its necessary skillsets, yet the education opportunities available to young people with an interest in the arts and technology are few and far between. If you love this industry, as I know so many of you do, and you don’t have an internship program at your firm yet, what are you waiting for?! That’s what Matt Pollard did at Linx Multimedia.
“I want to be able to tell someone, when they ask what I do, and I say, ‘I’m an audiovisual engineer, and I help with systems integration,’ that I don’t get blanks stares,” he said.
His comment gets to the problem of terminology. Sure, “systems designer” is succinct and accurate, but today it’s confused with IT on a mainstream level, and neither are exciting connotations. Our definitions of who we are don’t convey the cool factor that exists in so much of what we do. Emily Webster of ESI Design thinks it would behoove the industry to spin itself differently. She finds that sometimes even her clients don’t understand what “systems” refers to. Media architecture is one way she has re-labeled it. When asked what she does, “I think I change every time I say it.”
One observation in The Nine search process that I found particularly encouraging was the number of women there were. Three are on the list, and there were in more consideration. This was true for the 2014 class as well, in which five were women. We weren’t simply searching for women because we wanted to be diverse, they just happened to be there. Maybe with the increased push for STEM studies there’s been, we’re beginning to see a paradigm shift.
I’m sure there must be more people in this community pushing initiatives to attract interest in the industry from the next generation. Unfortunately, I don’t know of all too many. So please, email, call, or reach out on social media. It doesn’t have to be a grand project either. Even if you’ve been able to bring one young person in, and it feels like no big deal, I think it is a huge deal.