More Ideas About Workforce Development


Jeff Gardner


As we all know, workforce development is a priority across the electronic systems industry, not just in the residential sector. Every association serving the industry has some kind of initiative in place to raise awareness among young people, promote training in the academic channel, or connect people with jobs.  I recently took part in one of these initiatives, representing ESPA, the Electronic Systems Professional Alliance.

CABA – Continental Automated Buildings Association serves the industry with councils devoted to both intelligent buildings (large scale automation, control, and energy management) and the connected home. Their focus is on research and enhanced communication between manufacturers, innovators, architects, and integration firms, and they serve all of North America.  They organize large-scale research projects as well as topical white papers. Over the past several months I have served on a working group developing a white paper on training and education for the industry at large. We described the industry’s growth and the need for qualified people, the current training and education options available, and the gaps in this education which need to be filled.  The first draft of the white paper was completed in time to present to the CABA board of directors just before their annual forum, which took place last week in silicon valley.  We also presented a panel discussion outlining the contents of the white paper and prompting an enthusiastic conversation about how the academic channel can better prepare people for careers in the industry, from entry-level EST to system design and programming.

The conclusions were very similar to those that have been drawn in other conversations over the past few years:

– Awareness: The industry needs to do a much better job of making young people aware of the great careers we have to offer. NSCA – National Systems Contractors Association  is showing their commitment to this with their Ignite program, with over 60 “ambassadors” across the country armed with resources to share with high schoolers who would otherwise know nothing about the industry.

– Outreach to Schools: Providing content and certifications to enable schools to do the training and education needed to build a pipeline of qualified people.  ESPA and CEDIA have these resources and schools are adopting them, but not nearly fast enough.

– Focus on IT Students: We are now finding that students who have already gained computer and networking skills are ideal candidates to come into the industry and apply those skills in electronic systems. We are working with CompTIA’s Creating IT Futures program to introduce these students to the option of working in our sector. I just wrote a blog entry for their website …..and we created a flyer which can be given to IT students at both the high school and post-secondary level to get them interested.

– Connecting with Government Agencies: State and local agencies often have funding available to train career changers, but are unaware of our need for entry-level technicians and IT-savvy networking people. CTA  is holding the New American Jobs Summit conference today in Washington, DC. The event is targeted toward policymakers and employers to discuss the future of jobs in the US. ESPA has a pilot program wrapping up next week which provides adult education classes for career changers, and prepares them for the ESPA certification exam and immediate employment as entry-level technicians who already have a solid foundation of knowledge and skills and can be productive from day one.

– Call to Action for Integrators: The very best way to generate awareness among students, government agencies, and schools is through the actual employers; the integrators who live and work in their communities and have the opportunity to speak directly about our industry, its need for new hires, and the resources available to prepare people for these jobs. When real employers speak, schools and agencies listen.

For more info on any of these initiatives, resources, or strategies, please feel free to contact me. As executive director of ESPA my primary mission is the training, certification, and placement of technicians. But I can also provide wide ranging information on the resources offered by other associations and private training entities. We all have the same goal; building a robust pipeline of qualified people to work in our industry. Let’s work together toward that goal!

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