Have Your Techs Mastered These Critical Math Skills?

Do you have a formal training program or just offer by-the-seat-of-your-pants on the job training? Make sure your techs know these math fundamentals.

Have Your Techs Mastered These Critical Math Skills?

If you are an industry employer it is challenging times for hiring good and qualified personnel. I have heard from dealers that if an employment candidate has a good work ethic, good common sense and willing to improve professionally, they can then take care of the professional trade skills training.

But do these managers actually have a formal training program or just offer by-the-seat-of-your-pants OJT (on the job training) effort? If that’s the case, beware, because you may be building your house on a soft and sagging foundation.  Let’s look at some of the very fundamentals of tech skills math training.

Throughout my career I have had numerous training management positions. One that I can recall and surprised me was high school graduates that had difficulty with math basics such as working with percentages. The lesson that I learned was that just because a person has a high school diploma does not mean they have a good understanding of basic math skills.

In the recent SSI Gold Book it was indicated that out of security contractors’ top 10 concerns, No. 1 was “technician shortage,” with the third-highest concern being “lack of training.” With this shortage of qualified techs, the security contractor must take a different tactic than just waiting for the next skilled tech candidate to come in the door.

The owner must look for tech candidates that have good work ethics and potential for being a quality skilled technician. This means having in-house training programs to accomplish these goals.

Security industry expert Bill Bozeman, president and CEO of PSA Security Network, recently commented as one of his top five industry concerns, “As the security industry is looking to attract and retain talent, keeping top performers is a struggle in a good economy where it is easy to find another job and other industries are providing more progressive benefits packages.”

Any training program worth its salt should have pre- and post-testing. While the post-testing and evaluation seems obvious, it is easy to forget about the pre-testing. Actually, it should be part of your employment evaluation. Pre-testing is important in that it gives you a starting point in the individual’s training program. The big question now is, “What math skills are critical for a security industry technician to master?”

You will notice I use the term master. Let’s take a moment and look at some of these math skills and some resources to help you with this goal.

Simple Math — Understanding the very basics of math. Starting out with whole numbers, rounding numbers and changing fractions to decimals. Don’t forget order of operations when faced with calculations in parenthesis. This is one of the biggest math mistakes many still make. Do you remember the acronym PEMDAS (parenthesis, exponents, multiply or divide before add or subtract)? Knowing how to use scientific notation for working with very large or small numbers. Understanding trade terminology such as Kilo (K) or 103, Micro (μ) or 10-6.

Algebra — Some may not consider this basic math. However, working with unknowns in formulas like the famous OHM’s Law is a must-have electrical math skill.

Plane Geometry — Understanding how to calculate angles, distances, areas and volumes is important in a physical tech world.

Trigonometry — While an in-depth knowledge of trig may not seem necessary, certain areas such as understanding and using logarithms and decibel scales is a good advanced math skill. Real-world science such as sound and light are not linear and rely on using these math skills.

Below is a sampling of some useful reference material for math skills training:

Musings on Measurements & Mathematics in an Analog World (May 2015 Tech Talk) — An article by yours truly on a better understanding of analog math skills such as logarithmic scales, scientific notation and formulas like OHM’s Law.

Mike Holt’s Electrical Training Program —An excellent program with information for both training material and train-the-trainer. Get a free look at some of the training material in Mike’s Free Resources. While much of this material is geared to electricians it is still a good resource for low-volt-age tech training as well.

NTC Blue Book — One of the security trades best resources for training programs and material is the National Training Center. The Blue Book is very comprehensive.

Technical Math for Dummies — A good one-stop, hands-on guide for tech math courses.

Tool of the Month

If you go online you can find today many electrical calculator apps. However, this ElectriCalc Pro calculator is dedicated to not only electrical calculations but also the latest relevant NFPA 70 electrical codes.

You can also reference back versions of the electrical code, as we all know many AHJs are not current.

About the Author

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Bob is currently a Security Sales & Integration "Tech Talk" columnist and a contributing technical writer. Bob installed his first DIY home intercom system at the age of 13, and formally started his technology career as a Navy communication electronics technician during the Vietnam War. He then attended the Milwaukee School of Engineering and went on to complete a Security Management program at Milwaukee Area Technical College. Since 1976, Bob has served in a variety of technical, training and project management positions with organizations such ADT, Rollins, National Guardian, Lockheed Martin, American Alarm Supply, Sonitrol and Ingersoll Rand. Early in his career, Bob started and operated his own alarm dealership. He has also served as treasurer of the Wisconsin Burglar and Fire Alarm Association and on Security Industry Association (SIA) standards committees. Bob also provides media and training consulting to the security industry.

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