I recently had a great trip to San Antonio, and it was so positive in so many ways that I just had to share.
I had the pleasure of spending a couple of days with the folks at Bjorn’s Audio Video
, a Founding Member of CEDIA that has managed to not only survive but thrive, with a business model that includes both a stunning retail showroom and a highly professional custom installation division.
L-R: Bjorn Dybdahl, Jeff Gardner, Levi Oldham, Jay Juarez
Bjorn Dybdahl opened his first store in 1975, just in time for the rollout of Beta and VHS, and has built a very impressive operation which has adapted with the times and now employs some 65 people.
But it wasn’t the store or the city that I want to tell you about. It’s what we did to get their technicians CEDIA certified.
Jay Juarez, the install/service manager, had made it his goal to get every one of their electronic systems technicians (ESTs) trained and certified, and he contacted us to talk about how to best get that done. His inquiry got us thinking about the combination review/exam sessions that CEDIA had so much success with a few years back. This approach, along with proper preparation, improves the success rate and is cost-efficient for the participants.
In this case, Jay had 13 people he wanted to certify and had a nice plan to do in-house training sessions to make sure they were ready. We even opened up registration and had three more participants from other parts of South Central Texas, for a total of 16 attendees.
What made this work so well for Bjorn’s was the in-house training put together by Field Supervisor Levi Oldham. He created presentations based on the EST II Certification Job Task Analysis (PDF)
and held weekly training sessions to make sure everyone was very familiar with the content and ready for the test. I could tell by the participation in the class that they were very well prepared. We should have the test results within a few days, and I am confident the pass rate will be very high, if not perfect.
CEDIA's Jeff Gardner addresses technicians at Bjorn's Audio Video
Renewed Interest in Certification
The take-away from this is twofold: First, we are seeing a renewed enthusiasm about CEDIA certification. Last year, we updated the EST II Certification and saw a huge increase in certifications over the previous couple of years. And this year we are revising the Electronic Systems Designer certification.
All of this is to make sure that the exam blueprints, and the exams themselves, are current with today’s technologies and techniques. In fact, there are more exciting initiatives in the works which will be launched this year which will further underscore CEDIA’s commitment to training, certification, and workforce development.
And secondly, we saw how well a creative combination of preparation, content review, and onsite testing can work for a company that wants to gain multiple certifications in the most convenient and cost-effective way possible. You could call this “certification on-demand,” and we would love to see more of these customized solutions happen in other markets.
Building Up the Workforce
It should also be noted that the Electronic Systems Professional Alliance (ESPA)
program is growing fast. The entry-level ESPA Certified-EST® certification is now being used in tech schools and career centers in several markets, including Lincoln Tech’s six EST locations and even some high-school career centers. ESPA’s goal is to certify 1,000 ESTs this year and twice that in 2015. This is a certification you should be looking for when hiring entry-level technicians.
Bottom line: Certification is coming on strong. The industry needs trained people, and between CEDIA and ESPA, that workforce is being developed and nurtured.
Here is your call to action as an integrator: If you know of a school in your area that might be a good fit for ESPA or CEDIA training, let us know! The demand is there, the content is there; now we need more schools! And if you are interested in certifying multiple people at your location, CEDIA is eager to work with you to make that happen. You can start by contacting us at email@example.com
Jay Juarez from Bjorn’s sums up his attitude toward CEDIA certification like this: “Being a CEDIA Founding Member, we realize that education and certification makes us a better company, and sets our technicians apart from other integrators. It also shows a higher level of commitment to our clients, to produce quality work that meets or exceeds industry standards.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself.
About the Author: Jeff Gardner is Director of Certification and Workforce Development for both CEDIA and ESPA. Jeff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 317.328.4336 ext. 162.