This column originally appeared in Sound & Communications.
In the April 2016 issue of Sound & Communications, I told you about a new program in the works at AVIXA: microcredentialing (“Going Small In A Big Way”). I’m happy to say, microcredentials have arrived!
Microcredentials from AVIXA demonstrate proven skill in discrete aspects of commercial AV. The Certified Technology Specialist (CTS) credentials (macrocredentials, if you will) continue to be the most recognized certifications for demonstrating the widest breadth of industry knowledge and skill, but it has become clear that, for those still on the path to attaining their CTS, those just joining the industry, those serving the market with very focused offerings or those in related technology industries branching into AV, there is need for a training and accreditation program that develops and acknowledges certain critical skillsets.
Right out of the gate, InfoComm’s new microcredentials program includes three offerings for entry-level AV technicians: mounting equipment, pulling cable and terminating cable. Through this program, aspiring AV installers will complete online, interactive, video-rich classes on one or more of these subjects. Upon completion, they earn digital badges that can be shared on LinkedIn, in their email signature or online portfolio, etc. For hiring managers, such badges will help identify job candidates with the right skills. For AV techs, they make it easier to express exactly what they can bring to a company or project.
And because the microcredentials are based on training developed and vetted by professionals in the field, and are offered through an industry organization that also operates a certification program accredited by the American National Standard Institute under the auspices of the International Organization of Standardization and the International Electrotechnical Commission, their customers and their employees can be confident that the microcredentials truly represent an individual’s proven skill.
Through the course of studying for the Mounting Equipment badge, for example, students learn the basics of mounts and mounting documentation, practice gathering the required tools and equipment, assess the site and prepare the mount, learn to securely mount the equipment to the structure, and go through steps to finalize the task. Similar processes are followed for both pulling and terminating cable.
How do you learn a skill like mounting equipment online? Great question. The classes combine all the best of virtual learning: explanation, multiple videos, interactive exercises and simulations of work done correctly. Plus, techs get access to coaching from InfoComm instructors along the way.
Several industry professionals were involved in developing the microcredentials training, including Travis Lisk, CTS-I, Vice President of Technical Operations at Advanced AV, and Farrell Wood, CTS-D, CTS-I, National Quality Assurance & Training Manager at Whitlock.
“These microcredentials align perfectly with what many companies, including ours, are trying to do with in-house training for installation technicians,” Wood told us. “It provides validation of the skill sets of technicians, particularly those new to a company or to the industry. It’s a lot of work to do on-the-job training and make sure a new hire has mastered a specific skill set. Our goal is that our technicians don’t have to do that jobsite learning so that, when they go out in the field, they have done the specific training beforehand and aren’t learning on the customer’s site.”
Lisk sees the big picture of microcredentials for the industry: “It helps greatly with standardization. Whereas the IT industry has well-established practices, the AV industry has been fragmented as to what is the acceptable practice,” he said.
Over time, InfoComm expects to add other microcredentials to its offerings. It’s too early to say what they will be, but based on other work in development, such as an InfoComm standard for rack building, one could imagine some of the other opportunities for targeted training and accreditation.
For now, we’re also working to offer our first three microcredentials in Spanish and Portuguese. We’re pleased to provide installers and the companies that employ them in Latin America and the US with a great way to build the skills they need to do quality work.
The microcredentials program is the fortunate result of InfoComm and its members talking about ways to advance the industry. At InfoComm15 in Orlando, I met with several integration firms about what they wanted to see in InfoComm’s next-generation learning-management system, which came online earlier this year. What I also heard from them was a concern that some of their best and most veteran certified installers were hamstrung by a need to train new hires. If there was a way InfoComm could offer targeted training, and verify that someone has acquired the proper installation skills, it would improve their operations, their workforce and their ability to deliver quality AV experiences.
To that end, two years later at InfoComm17 in Orlando, we presented InfoComm’s microcredentials. Learn more at www.infocomm.org/installmicrocreds.