AVademics by Joshua Stackhouse
I’ve been hearing a lot of talk lately about certifications in the AV industry. Some believe they’re critical to the growth of our industry, some believe they’re a piecemeal solution to a bigger problem, a lack of formal academics. It is my belief that both parties have a lot of merit to their respective views, but both fall short of the big picture.
The future of education in our industry will look very similar to an electrician or engineer. Formal academics will become increasingly more common as the systems which we work with become increasingly more complex. Installers will go to school to learn their trade and then get certified just as electricians do. System designers will have formal degrees not entirely unlike a traditional architect in “AV Engineering”, a mixture of both structural and electrical engineering.
I’d like to take just a moment to point out that in less than one month I’ll be graduating with an Associates of Applied Science in Electronics and Audio/Visual Systems. Upon graduating I will have spent an intensive 18 months of my life learning everything from principles and methods of building construction to electronic circuit analysis and every basic AV principle in between. So when I make this prediction I speak from an understanding of how powerful formal AV education is and how it will shape the future of our industry.
Which leaves me pondering, if very few other people in the industry have formal academic training in AV, what then is the value of my degree? Mind you this is not a judgement of the quality of my education, but rather a question about the recognition of its value by industry professionals. Since many in the industry have not yet heard about such a thing, then what does that mean for me as a professional? Does my degree mean anything to people in the industry?
As it turns out, yes…yes it does have meaning. However, that meaning isn’t exactly obvious. To really understand requires a bit of explanation.
I have dedicated 18 months of my life to learning the science behind AV, the electronics that makes them tick, how these systems are installed, and how to design them. The depth of my knowledge surpasses that of an average apprentice. I could walk on to any of a dozen different AV or Low-Voltage job sites and easily follow the instruction of a veteran with little guidance.
The simple fact remains, however, that my actual hands on experience with many of the things I have learned is somewhat limited, which places me in this awkward position to be more than a noob but less than an expert.
Which is precisely where I want to be. You see I’m not actually following in the traditional path of career development. While many, indeed if not most, AV guys and gals started with an interest in AV and learned as they went along, I went to school first and have a rich understanding of not only the systems themselves but also the industry before even making my career debut.
Which leads me to this conclusion. The days where just any guy with a van can pull up to your house, pull some cable in your home and call himself an installer is gone like the dinosaurs. For this industry to continue its growth the level of skill necessary for installers and designers must grow with it.
This is not an easy task, and companies who want to succeed will need to increase the knowledge of their employees to beyond mere certifications. They will need people who are highly trained professionals, no different from a doctor or master electrician. It is here where our esteemed industry veterans must step up to the challenge of working with institutions of higher learning to create formal academics. This is how my program was created and only by doing so can the next generation of AV professionals be born.
This second generation AV professional, or AV Pro v2.0, isn’t coming, he and she are here already. Which is precisely where persons such as myself with a formal academic background come into the picture. It is my hope that this blog post serve as a wakeup call to the veteran AV professionals. Look to programs such as the one I am graduating from as inspiration and source material. Take your own approach, talk to your local higher-ed institutions and make something happen. Combine this with the efforts of organizations such as InfoComm and it’s certifications and I promise you that our industry will flourish. So, what are you waiting for Mr. Veteran AV Guy, don’t you have some phone calls to make?