The poet Robert Frost defined education as, “Hanging around until you’ve caught on.” Some may choose to follow this path because they do not accept the tangible return on investment that training provides.
A few years ago, a speaker at a state alarm convention in California addressed the cost of training and a common objection to investing in a comprehensive training program. The company owner lamented he would invest the time and money in training a technician, only to have the employee soon quit and move on. The speaker’s response was concise: “What if they don’t leave?”
Well-trained and knowledgeable employees are the foundation of any operation and the building blocks to grow your business. This is especially critical in the technology-driven electronic security and fire/life-safety industry. Successful companies have universal training programs for their employees, and one would expect that they established these programs early on in their company lifecycle.
The security industry has always had great training and educational resources available, developed by manufacturers to support the introduction of their products and through programs offered by associations for the public good.
Apprenticeships Catching On
The National Training School (NTS), founded by the National Burglar & Fire Alarm Association (NBFAA), offers solid foundational training for burglar and fire alarm technicians in the classroom and online. NTS courses provide comprehensive fundamental training to technicians regardless of their field experience.
Recently, when the California Alarm Association (CAA) offered NTS courses, one company enrolled all their technicians, regardless of their work experience. Their goal was to have consistent installations so that service and maintenance could be handled by any technician. The results are increased customer satisfaction and a more efficient workforce.
The industry now has an apprentice program approved by the United States Department of Labor that was developed in California in response to a state legislative mandate. Industry leaders came to understand the inherent value of establishing a professional occupation, creating a career path, and delivering current and relevant curriculum within the apprentice model. The coursework is based on the electronic systems technician curriculum created by a consortium of limited voltage associations.
While it was created in response to a mandate, the apprentice model is now being adopted by other state associations that understand member companies will be able to expand, train and retain technicians, and compete with other professional trades. In California, one technician who was seeking employment, received two offers, and selected the company that offered him an opportunity to participate in an apprentice program. There is also anecdotal evidence that apprentice technicians are committed to the education they receive, choosing to remain in the program even when they have the option to obtain a state certification.
An Abundance of Offerings
Technical training is the core to success in the electronic security industry, but companies also benefit from a wide array of professional development resources addressing business management, including sales and marketing efforts. Company owners and senior managers enhance and expand their skill sets by participating in professional conferences and meetings, as well as formal training and educational presentations.
Professional trade associations serve as the entry point, in many cases beginning at the local, regional or state level. Associations that meet locally offer an opportunity to network with peers, explore solutions to common issues, and receive information that may impact their business in a positive or negative way. Statewide conventions expand the networking opportunities with colleagues who are not competing in your market and allow for open discussion about the state of your business. Representatives of manufacturers and suppliers, who have their finger on the pulse of the market, provide valuable insight at industry meetings.
National conferences and expositions provide the most expansive offerings to owners and managers. NBFAA and the Central Station Alarm Association (CSAA) formed the Electronic Security Expo (ESX), which includes broad business management presentations as well as focused operational, sales and marketing tracks.
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