Workforce Certification Issues Heat Up

  • The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association (CEDIA), and National Systems Contractors Association (NSCA) announced Nov.9th that the three associations have joined forces to form the Electronic Systems Professional Alliance (ESPA), which they claim will serve as the foundation of a career-ready workforce for the electronic systems contracting industry, which includes a growing part of the booming digital signage industry.
  • The announcement came on the heels of a "Letter to the Industry" from InfoComm October 30th, which outlined InfoComm's position vis a vis the legislative pursuits of NSCA and CEDIA. In his October Executive Update, posted online, InfoComm's executive director Randal A. Lemke asserted the benefit of minimizing government involvement in systems industry certification. He criticized what he referred to as attempts by NSCA and CEDIA to push state legislation mandating EST (Electronic Systems Technician) certification as a licensure requirement. Lemke pointed out that InfoComm has over 5,600 holders of their Certified Technology Specialist (CTS) designation, a much larger number than has been certified by any other association electronic systems industry, and has accomplished this without any involvement of government or licensing agencies.
  • "It is time to publicly discuss CEDIA and NSCA's legislative attempts to mandate the EST program as the basis for licensure to work in various states," read the InfoComm statement. "We are taking this somewhat unusual step because the EST has not been accepted by the industry and we need to inform our members and the industry about what our association is doing to protect the Certified Technology Specialist (CTS) and our members' investment in it."
  • NSCA and CEDIA subsequently responded, last week, with separate statements clarifying their initiatives, which both claimed were attempts to differentiate the systems integration industry from electrical contractors and stress to government officials the concept that there are special considerations for the systems integration industry that need to be recognized.
  • Capping the flurry of press releases from the major associations outlining their own individual agendas, the release Nov. 9th (distributed via email by Publicis USA, the PR agency of record for CEDIA) announcing the Electronic Systems Professional Alliance (ESPA) formed with CEA, CEDIA and NSCA, stated that the ESPA "welcomes more partners in delivering high-quality education and credible certification that is universally recognized as the path to an electronic systems career", an overture to InfoComm to join the alliance.
  • "There is strength in numbers," said Chuck Wilson, chairman of ESPA and executive director of NSCA, in the ESPA press release. "By coming together and offering a single entry-level education and certification platform for any and all industry organizations, ESPA will be universally recognized as the gateway to a career in electronic systems contracting."
  • "The demand for electronic systems in homes and businesses has steadily increased causing a need for larger numbers of qualified technicians", stated the release. "ESPA will help meet this need by filling the electronic systems industry workforce pipeline with job-ready new professionals who have mastered the basics and carry credible certification. The leaders of CEA, CEDIA and NSCA recognize that having numerous competing entry-level education and certification products in the marketplace is confusing. ESPA seeks to calm the "noise" by providing one set of fundamental best practices that are common among all industry organizations. After achieving ESPA certification, the foundation of every electronic systems contracting career, technicians will then have the option to pursue advanced careers through existing specialized programs offered by the independent trade groups. Because the new alliance is open to any and all electronics organizations, ESPA has potential to become the common denominator for millions of workers seeking higher-wage technical careers."
  • ESPA anticipates rolling out its education/certification programs in the third or fourth quarter of 2007.
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