How to Construct Today’s Ideal Technician
Technical skills are obviously important, but what other traits does each technician need to be successful?
Recently I had the opportunity to again attend this year’s regional Maker Faire in Orlando, Fla. At the conference I discussed the expectations of training future technicians with Steve Bowman, who is an Electronic Technology Instructor at Mid Florida Tech, a division of Orange County (Fla.) Public Schools. When talking with Bowman about technician training programs he posed a very simple, yet direct question to me: “So if you had the ideal technician that is fresh out of school, what certifications and knowledge would you like them to have?” As I pondered an answer, I thought it might be interesting to share some of my technician skills wish list.
What is needed to build the ideal or perfect technician? When we are looking at building a young talent in this industry we must look at the whole person. Having been a graduate of military training I would say that some of the “break them down to build them up,” practices – though perhaps not as extreme – would be a good place to start. I can recall at one time being involved with an Electronic Systems Technician (EST) training program in which the students had to report to class every day on time and in freshly pressed technician uniforms. That might not be considered a skill, but it is a start toward building good professional habits.
Basics Must Also Address Communication, Safety
While technical skills are obviously important in this objective, we must also look at the whole service tech repertoire. This includes what is known as “soft skills,” addressing areas such as communication and organization. The technician is an extension of your business. It is important that they express themselves in a positive and professional way; likely that means they should avoid discussing politics, religion and off-color jokes.
Another important fundamental attribute that has an overarching effect on all technical skills is that of safety. This is not only vital to the individual but to the company’s investment in the technician as well. Not only should every stage of training have safety intertwined, but technicians should be OSHA certified (Occupational Safety and Health Administration).
EST trainees should possess significant technical and operational core skills, of course. These would include understanding the project cycle, report writing, math calculations utilizing algebra, plane geometry and trigonometry; plus a solid understanding of basic physics such as sound though light frequencies, AC/DC electricity/electronics and mechanics.
Mastering basic test tools such as a digital multimeter and specialized tools such as voice/data/video/alarm testers is instrumental to the ideal technician, as well as applying circuitry basics such as Ohm’s law and troubleshooting with these tools. Today’s technicians must wear both an analog and digital technology hats. So it is important that they be well versed and certified in computer and network technology.
Hands-on Experience & Certification Work Crucial
For the most part the EST’s workplace will be the residential and commercial jobsite. As many of you in the trade already know the Construction Specification Institute’s (CSI) latest MasterFormat 2014 specifications publication now has low voltage broken out from under electrical. With this the low-voltage industry has more responsibility and requires better trained and skilled technicians.
Technicians need hands-on training in plan drawings, conduit bending, cabling, fasteners and anchors, pathways and spaces. They should also have firsthand experience with construction methods and materials. Taking projects from the planning stage to the final implementation, review and analysis is critical to a technician’s development and the company’s success.
Standards are what keeps our industry humming and in organized chaos. Technicians should understand standards such as the National Electrical Code (NEC) AKA NFPA 70. They should also know key vertical market standards such as NFPA 72 fire code.
Nothing prepares a student better for employment than capping his basic EST training with trade certifications. Opportunities are abundant – look to organizations such as NICET, ESA-NTS, CEDIA, ESPA, SIA, BICSI and Installation Quality (IQ) – for the ideal technician to fill their rÃ©sumÃ© with relevant education and coursework.
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