On Sunday mornings, before reasonable people wake up to greet the day, a bunch of driven folks get together on Twitter to discuss topics facing our industry. A recent discussion on #AVintheAM focused on the AVIXA CTS (Certified Technical Specialist) certification and its value to the AV industry.
Are AV Certifications Hot or Not?
To start off, the CTS provides clear training milestones that align with requirements for technical job descriptions and track well with learned experience. This provides an outline for employers to write detailed job descriptions for each level of technician. Incoming candidates can be tested and matched against preferred skill levels to help determine where they start out in the company, and what their pay grade is. This also gives candidates a clear expectation for their personal development plan as they start a new position.
The CTS also provides training that is consistent with ANSI standards, meaning someone who has earned their certification is knowledgeable of what is and is not compliant with expected standards of quality and safety on an AV project. Without accredited training, it is up to the quality of on-the-job training of the employer—which often leads to inconsistencies.
In the same vein, this certification helps define a starting point and career path for new entrants to the AV industry; it provides firm direction for those looking to mix it up and gain more than one year of experience year-after-year. Some companies use a CTS certification as a prerequisite for promotions to certain jobs like project lead, and even attach pay incentives. Any technician looking to move into sales, engineering, project management, live events, or any other position within the company will benefit greatly from learning the fundamentals.
Finally, earning the CTS is consistent with creating a culture of learning within your organization and personal self. The companies that encourage learning, reading, discovery, trying (and failing often), tend to attract and retain the best people. If employees do not feel invested in or pushed to grow, and if they become complacent with their current roles, then suddenly a culture problem exists that drives inspired staff away.
The CTS is a grand accomplishment, and I love seeing the pride on our team members’ faces when they achieve it. However, there are some concerns with the certification that need to be considered. For starters, holding a CTS does not translate to success on the job. Whether it’s in sales, engineering, or field work, having the knowledge behind AV principles and best practices is a must, but does not give an installer the practical experience needed to skillfully and consistently install to the standards the CTS dictates.
Overconfidence is a related concern. An inept technician who hits the books hard and passes the test may have more trust in his abilities and be less open to the ideas of others. Most of the really accomplished leaders in our industry who know the tech speak and have years of grueling install to their names are often humble and draw the best out of young talent. Some are straight up boastful, but are still a blast to be around. Nobody, however, enjoys an ungrateful technician who knows enough to be dangerous and is unwilling to be a good teammate.
Recognition outside the industry is another pitfall to the CTS. IT managers, architects, and end-users often are not aware of the CTS. And, if they are, they don’t value on the individuals who carry it. Trying to decide between the CTS and other more globally-accepted certifications may lead some folks to forgo AV-specific training. Learning the guiding practices in AV is certainly a worthwhile effort and should be completed to gain a foothold within the industry, but may sometimes take a backseat to using other credentials to show a potential client or key partner that your people are top notch.
Finally, a few #AVTweeps consider the CTS to be diluted—if anyone can get it, does it actually hold any value? Someone with little experience, knowledge, or value to their organization can study hard and pass the test.
What’s Your Temperature?
The CTS has its pros and cons, and that’s okay. Certainly the certification is not a great fit for everyone in the AV industry, and there is no shame in that. However, I find the CTS and what it stands for to have great value to our industry and those who earn it. AVIXA has recognized the need for hands-on training and created the Microcredential program, where new entrants to the industry learn how to perform basic install tasks and are required to demonstrate their ability to execute to a mentor online. Learn more here: https://www.avixa.org/training-certification/certification/microcredentials.
AVIXA also created the CTS-I and CTS-D certifications to address the more advanced and in-depth topics in AV, understanding that the CTS is a mile wide and a foot deep. This is beautiful because, regardless of what someone does in our industry, passing the CTS gives them an understanding of a project lifecycle from initial sales contact all the way to service and maintenance. Think of the CTS as a springboard to a new career in AV.
CTS holders should certainly go after the advanced CTS designations and even non-AV certifications like COMPTIA, PMP, and others, but the CTS has its place in AV and will only make us better as an industry. I encourage anyone considering the CTS exam to go for it! Hit me up on Twitter when you pass, because it’s the start of something great and I cannot wait to see what all of you #AVTweeps accomplish. And if you fail on the first attempt that’s okay… I did too.