How to Tap Into the Education Market
SSI recently spoke with Beverly Vigue, vice president of education markets for Ingersoll Rand (IR), a provider of access control, mass communication and other electronic security solutions. In the following interview, Vigue discusses the challenges and opportunities for systems integrators working this dynamic vertical market.
[IMAGE]11947[/IMAGE]Apprise key trends in the education market as you see them right now.
When you talk about education there is higher education and there is K-12. If you look at the K-12 market, I think the biggest buzzwords are lockdown, either mechanical or electronic. You have student tracking. Schools want to know where the kids are when they get on the bus, when they get off the bus, and student attendance — is every child sitting in a seat? There’s money that comes back to that school district [based on student attendance].
Next is visitor management because of the Jessica Lunsford Act. Almost all the states in the union have legislation pending that says in the case of the K-12 environment, if you have a workman, for instance, who goes onto the campus you have to make sure they are not in the sexual predator database.
Those are the big pieces of the pie, I would say. The problem is you have more than $400 million worth of deferred maintenance that nobody can afford to take care of. How do you find funds to do the things that you need to do, especially in security, be it mechanical or electronic?
The perception among some integrators has been that K-12 was one of the hottest markets, but some of the funding dried up. What challenges does that present today?
This deferred maintenance is where schools are getting into a lot of trouble because they don’t have money to do the simple things. There are four basic things: I’ve got to close the door, I’ve got to latch the door, I’ve got to control my access, and I can’t compromise my safety to do all of that in a regular school building. Yet they’re deferring regular maintenance, so then someone has to go around and make sure all the doors are closed and latched. They don’t have the manpower to do that. How can we help them? The only way we see that is by getting them to understand where they can get the money from the federal government through grants. I don’t think it’s going to get any easier in 2011.
What can you recommend to integrators to help them be successful in the education market?
Understand first which schools are going to have funding and which ones are not. Who’s going to make the decisions? Is it at the school board level? Is it the principal? Every single district will be different, right? You really have to understand your territory before you start calling on anybody. I think a lot of us just call whomever we’re comfortable calling on and we don’t care for that sales call and understand what the user’s needs are.
Maybe a particular school is already 100-percent fine and hasn’t had any incidents, so why are we trying to reach out to them? The big thing is it’s not going to be new construction. It has to be aftermarket. New construction has really dried up. I think being prepared, understanding what’s happening in my district, understanding who has the money, and if there is a need come in prepared to talk about where they can find the funding.
I see that as one of the failings throughout our entire industry is that we never really prepare for the call the way we should.
Is it even more complex in the higher education market to identify the decision maker?
On a college campus we find that there might be five different budgets around the campus and they might have three access control systems — the academic building has something and maybe the athletic facility has something else. It just depends on who is controlling all of that.
As an integrator, if you are trying to pull all of that together then you have to have all of those decision makers, all the politics around the table and get them to agree on the direction they really need to go. Then you have to say if I have two or three head-end systems, are they having problems with them? Do they have a one-card solution? There’s so many different things that they have to do. As a dealer, am I tied into a one-card provider? Am I working with somebody who already does the vending, already does the laundry and will that one card operate in my access control system. It’s a lot of things to consider.
There are going to be challenges on the funding side, but what growth do you foresee these markets moving forward?
We’re looking forward to having an uptick in 2012. It is going to be steady. We see community colleges are the ones that are exploding right now. That marketplace is exploding because of the number of older people going back to school, and younger people who would have gone to a four-year school but have parents who are saying, ‘Whoa, I can’t afford that, you’re going to go to a community college and you’re going to stay at home.’
These community college campuses are going to have to expand. So they’re going to get funding through increased tuition, not a lot, but there is tuition. They have to find innovative ways to create revenue, but I think community colleges is going to be a big opportunity.
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