AV Heads Back to Vegas, This Time for Uncle Sam
I was talking last week with an InfoComm member who made a point that I hope never gets lost on other InfoComm members: This is your association. It’s member-driven, led mostly by volunteers. InfoComm employees are here to execute your vision for the industry, which means keeping you in the loop about how, in fact, things are going in various programs and initiatives.
So here’s something to put your radar that we all can be proud of: July 23-27, InfoComm representatives are headed back to Las Vegas for a special education symposium put on by the U.S. Defense Department’s Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support (DANTES). The DoD would put it more formally, but basically, the DANTES mission is to provide training and education opportunities to active-duty military and veterans, whether it’s SAT prep work, distance learning or career training. InfoComm will be there to promote a career in the professional AV industry and the value of the Certified Technology Specialist (CTS) credential.
There’s a ton that is plain right about this initiative. With the U.S. economy still struggling to provide ample jobs, and with wars overseas slowing winding down, engaging with members of the military about their future job path is a responsible thing to do. That’s a big part of why InfoComm recently entered into an agreement with the United Veterans Learning Centers to create a new AV education program for vets. It kicks off in August.
Engaging active-duty miliary and vets is also smart for our industry because, well, they’re smart. For many Americans, the military and what it does are fairly abstract. We know they do a dangerous job and most of us are grateful for that. We have some vague, movie-driven concept of the tools of their profession, but certainly not all of them. Getting a secure videoconference set up in a war zone? Not something just anyone can do.
Before getting involved with the AV industry, I spent several years covering federal technology systems, including at the DoD. I’ve been to my share of military conferences and AFCEA events (that’s the Armed Forces Communications
and Electronics Association, an outstanding group if you’re interested in burnishing your government connections). What always struck me was the expert grasp that members of the military had on old and new technology, which really shouldn’t suprise anyone, but sometimes gets lost in the military’s overriding mission.
In the run-up to the DANTES symposium, I’ve been able to talk to a couple vets who are now members of the pro-AV industry. Perhaps you’ve heard Ed Morman, CTS-D, CTS-I, speak before. He presented at last year’s GovComm in Washington, D.C. Ed joined the Air Force in 1991 and started out handling wideband and SATCOM communications. He rose to handle AV systems for the White House and then transitioned to a reservist role. But when he want looking for a job, he found it was hard to communicate to pro-AV companies everything he already knew.
“The AV companies I interviewed with wanted to start me out on the ground level pulling cables because they had no way to verify my AV experience,” Morman told me. He came upon InfoComm, studied for his certifications and is currently an AV design engineer for General Dynamics Information Technology.
I also spoke to Josh Ellis, who was an Army Sergeant and is now a project manager and AV engineer for ManTech International. He’s actually working on his CTS as I type this, and recently sat for his Project Management Professional (PMP) certification. In the Army, Josh was that guy setting up secure videoconferences among generals, which led to a progression of AV-related jobs when he left the service.
“With my AV background, I’ve gotten jobs so far because I’ve come recommended,” Ellis explained. “But for the future, I want to earn actual certifications in order to demonstrate that I have a proven ability to do a job.”
Two things: Making CTS accessible to members of the military, just as it’s accessible to people of all walks of life, is important and will be important to InfoComm moving forward. But CTS or no CTS, it’s also important for the AV industry to recognize the (often sadly) untapped talent coming out of the military. The national unemployment rate is just north of 8 percent; the unemployment rate for veterans in the post-9/11 era is more than 60 percent higher. As AV companies add to their ranks, they’d be wise to look twice at resumes from military vets. They can always earn their CTS later, but what they can bring to the job immediately, especially as it pertains to communications systems in a converged AV/IT world, may prove invaluable.
To many of you, this is preaching to the choir. You already employ (or are) some of the best and brightest military vets. Here in the Washington, D.C., region especially, and elsewhere, there are many prominent veteran-owned AV integration firms. And in the AV community at large, there are a slew of vendors and other companies who support vets in various ways.
We’d love to hear how your company supports/trains/hires military vets. But mostly, we wanted to keep you in the loop on an important initiative from your association. We think this is big deal and we’ll keep you posted on progress.