In the AV industry, there are no specific degrees, formal education tracks, or comprehensive training programs that truly prepare someone for a successful career. While our industry associations and manufacturers offer training and certifications, the content is incomplete and not easily accessible. Ranging from broad-stroke knowledge to details that are technical tasks or role specific, to information biased toward certain technologies or equipment, the spectrum of educational offerings that currently exists within the AV industry is difficult to digest. There are a lack of go-to resources available for neophytes seeking knowledge, training, and career development for roles such as engineers, technicians, programmers, project managers, salespeople, and administrative professionals.
While the challenge of finding new talent and attracting young people to the industry may be paramount, providing effective training and the ability to bring newcomers up to speed quickly and efficiently or offer a pathway for those within the industry to advance is perhaps of even greater importance. It makes sense that the technical side of the AV industry is the natural focus for curriculum development, knowledge, and training resources and that a greater number of avenues exist for development in these areas. However, no single resource provides a turnkey solution for development of talent. What needs to be considered is the importance of general business knowledge, understanding of industry roles and responsibilities, and development of professional skills for any position within an organization, whether technical or nontechnical. Aside from the challenge of identifying and recruiting new talent, it is the absence of comprehensive training and educational resources limiting skills and professional development that serve as the greater obstacle to businesses and organizations looking to grow.
Instead of investing in those new to the industry, the default strategy for many businesses and organizations has been to pursue an industry veteran or reinvent a retread who requires minimal training or education to get up to speed. What makes this situation worse is what is often overlooked: many veteran AV professionals who have had years of experience and success in one organization require a sharpening of knowledge, a re-tuning of approach, and a commitment to learning new skills in order to be successful in another organization. What can be more concerning is overcoming ingrained habits and needing to learn modern technology, yielding an advantage to candidates from the younger generation.
There is no doubt that one of the biggest challenges that the AV industry faces is bringing in new people, but without a pathway for effective training, how does someone new to the industry get up to speed or advance?
Here are some ideas that should be considered for developing talent within an AV business or end-user organization:
Develop Your Own Internal Training Program
Each leader, team, or enterprise has their own unique set of rules and processes that define them. A learned skill or practice is likely to be applied differently in varying environments and situations. Providing guidelines and reference material in the form of standard operating procedures (SOPs) will help newcomers to an organization get acclimated and up to speed quicker. With the abundance of options to create video for the purposes of training, tutorial, or enhanced communication, the ability to create a reference library for instruction simply requires planning and willingness to explore new solutions. Additionally, any time live trainings or webinars are offered formally or informally within an organization, they should be recorded and stored. A 30-minute recorded video can serve as many hours of instruction to future viewers.
Connect with a Mentor or Mentee
On-the-job learning is likely the most valuable way of developing skills and gaining tribal knowledge. One of the best ways to do so is by learning from others’ experiences, and most importantly, their mistakes. The bigger the error, the more lessons learned! Finding and building a relationship with a mentor provides an incredibly valuable opportunity to learn. Especially in a niche industry like AV, each individual develops their own knowledge database from their unique journey that they rely upon for problem solving, decision making, and navigating their career. The ability to either work alongside a mentor and/or tap into a mentor’s knowledge database will accelerate learning and growth and minimize undesirable outcomes. On the flip side, having a mentee provides a mentor the opportunity to refresh knowledge and see things through a new lens, while leaving both parties feeling rewarded by acquiring new knowledge or skills passed up from the mentee to the mentor.
Empower Individuals to Learn Independently
Training cannot be the sole responsibility of any one party or individual. It requires effort and contribution on all fronts. While businesses and organizations need to allot time for training and professional growth, individuals receiving training need to do their part in investing in the process through personal development, self study, and bettering themselves. Embarking on personal projects, pursuing opportunities to learn new skills, volunteering within the industry, and pushing oneself outside of a comfort zone are all opportunities for growth and development and activities that will yield great results. In order to be effective, the benefit of training requires use and repetition of skills, similar to working out in a gym. Constant iteration and improvement are the only ways to become stronger and fitter.
Hire a Coach, Consultant, or Training Resource
One thing that is certainly true is that virtually no one in the AV industry is successful entirely on their own. It’s very difficult to exist in a bubble. Seeking knowledge form others is critical. Without a go-to resource for learning specific skills or reference for information, the ability to grow is severely inhibited. Many can exist for some time doing what has worked in the past; however, the opportunity to improve by learning a new skill, approaching a task in a new manner, or addressing a pain point with a solution rather than a workaround can be a difference maker.
Working with an outside resource like a business or professional coach, consultant, or trainer is similar to a professional athlete who hires a coach to help them rise to the top. Whether it yields a training regiment, a few helpful tips, a fresh perspective, a solution to problems, or an accountability partner, a relationship with a professional coach or consultant can change the dynamic of working independently or within an insulated environment to benefiting from the vast knowledge and experience of a highly successful talent pool.
Since everyone learns differently, effective training needs to be a combination of classroom, independent study, opportunity to apply skills, and mentorship. Businesses and organizations need to be aware that it is not enough to simply recruit and hire talented prospects or industry veterans and rely upon the hands-off approach of industry and manufacturer trainings with expectations of high return. Instead, in order to capitalize on the investment of a quality team and ensure their success, an equal commitment needs to be made to training and professional development.
With the rate of change in technology and business, if you are not continually learning and evolving your skill set, regression of knowledge and capabilities will occur. Whether you are a newcomer or an industry veteran, access to training, education, and developmental resources is key to a successful career.
Steve Greenblatt, CTS, is president and founder of Control Concepts, a provider of specialized software and services for the audiovisual industry.