At AVIXA, we hear time and again that a top concern for AV companies is the need for more talent that is qualified. This need is driven by the fact that our industry is flourishing, and the opportunity for work has increased as a result. Employers can’t find enough qualified employees to meet the current level of demand. On the other side of the equation, many young people aren’t even aware of AV as a career option. To correct this imbalance, the AVIXA Foundation is working to raise awareness of AV careers among pools of potential future employees.
Most students already have many of the skills required to get started in an AV career. The next step is simply to enhance what they already know through some specific industry training and certification. For instance, someone is already in a strong position to enter this industry if he or she runs the audio board at his or her house of worship, makes music or videos with friends, or manages the sound and lighting in his or her school’s theater. Potential employees like these simply have to professionalize their passions. Many young people are already doing AV; they just don’t realize it.
The AVIXA Foundation is working to build a clear, appealing career path for students to join the AV workforce. We’re doing this by providing AV curriculum and resources to high schools, vocational/technical schools, community colleges, universities and other education programs.
Many of our education partnerships begin with introductions by AVIXA members. For example, an AV company in northern California did digital signage work for local community colleges and technical schools. The AV firm’s Owner knew California was ramping up its school-to-career programs, so he saw value in bringing more AV-skills training to the region. After conversations with state representatives, we knew that a formal AV-education program would benefit California’s schools substantially. We knew there were myriad ways we could help students in California, one of the biggest markets for AV jobs in the US, make AV their career choice.
The first step was to show educators in the San Francisco Bay Area the viability of building AV-career pathways from their classrooms. The fundamental skills required to work in AV overlap with countless existing study areas in schools, including audio recording and acoustics, theater and lighting, engineering, hospitality, digital media and network security.
In 2016, we hosted several groups of teachers and leaders from community organizations in northern California and around the US at our InfoComm trade show. The evidence of how exciting and expansive our industry really is hit home with them. Supporting market data also made a compelling case as regards the number of jobs available at our top AV companies. Once instructors and administrators saw how AV skills translate to opening doors for students, they were committed to bringing AV coursework into their classrooms.
The first large-scale education partnership began in the Bay Area with Laney College in 2016, when the college was looking to grow its media-arts program. Nearby City College of San Francisco also had its sights on expanding its parallel audioproduction and recording program. AVIXA worked with both schools to outline how an AV curriculum best could fit into a dual program. Today, the colleges’ students can receive credits toward graduation for classes based on AVIXA’s Essentials of AV Technology, installation coursework and CTS exam preparation. And, the courses are taught by CTS-certified faculty.
As the courses have grown in popularity, local AV professionals who serve on the schools’ industry advisory board are speaking at career days, as well as hosting job shadowing and internships. And, they’re first in line to hire students from the program.
From these beginnings, the AVIXA Foundation has forged partnerships with schools far and wide, from Full Sail University in Orlando FL, to Columbia College in Chicago IL, to Secretaría de Educación de Distrito de Bogotá in Colombia.
The AVIXA Foundation’s newest education partnership will bring fundamental AV-skills training to secondary-school students all over southern California. Another pillar of our mission is to bring career awareness to students who might wish to get straight to work, rather than attending college full time. Fostering hands-on work experiences for students like these is integral. Through a new online-learning system hosted by West Hills College Coalinga, students in the Fullerton CA, Huntington Beach CA and Downey CA high school districts, along with those in Newport-Mesa Unified School District, have a chance to prepare for careers in AV. This statewide program is the first of its kind. We are thrilled to see how many students will see themselves as future AV professionals.
These education partnerships are still in their infancy. We’re concentrating our efforts on ensuring our pilot programs have all the resources and industry support required to achieve positive outcomes. As we do regular check-ins with partner schools, we learn about small victories and hear stories of students receiving internships and jobs.
There is no better time for AV companies to become ambassadors for our industry. The job opportunities are vast, and the industry is flourishing. With the help of the AV community, the AVIXA Foundation can make strides in building an even stronger workforce.
Begin the conversation about opportunities in our industry with schools and non-profits that help young adults plan for a career. Represent the industry at career fairs and make presentations to classes that teach parallel trade skills. This comes down to taking some risks. Reach out to communities around you and show the next generation they can pursue their passions, while also making a great living.
Learn more about the AVIXA Foundation’s workforce-development initiatives at www.avixa.org/foundation.