Saturday, April 19, 2008

Industry Training and Certification: Building the Workforce to Service the Digital Home

Digital living is here – consumers have embraced electronics, and digital is ubiquitous in communication, documentation, entertainment, and everyday life. Homes are now wired extensively for multiroom audio, computer networks, surveillance cameras, security systems, home theater, and home control. Current sales and projections for digital home products and systems show double-digit growth. Today the challenge is, how do you know the company and technician performing installation and service work are qualified and performing the work correctly. The need for a qualified workforce to deliver the digital home is paramount.

For years many have predicted a plug-and-play world for installation of electronics. Products and interoperability have improved dramatically over the past decade, yet growth in technology is still faster than product enhancements, requiring installation and interconnection by trained and qualified technicians. The skill set required is different than that of the electrician, the traditional wire installer in the home. The professional contractors serving the home provide electrical, plumbing, and HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning). Now meet the fourth trade – the low voltage installer. The person performing this work in the field is called an electronic systems technician (EST). The advanced setup, programming, and ongoing support are delivered by a digital home technology integrator (DHTI), a trained and certified professional installing and servicing residential technology systems.

Training Resources
Opportunities for training in the fast-growing world of technologies for the digital home range from associations, industry events, education facilities, and training companies to manufacturers and publishers. With the complexity and options in many products offered today, and the integration of products with each other, manufacturers are offering more and more training. Manufacturer training opportunities have expanded from the traditional live presentations given at industry events, local distributors around the country, and road shows to include webinars and online courses. Technical schools are starting to offer training in technology for the home, incorporating online, classroom setting with lectures, and hands-on labs. Training companies offer industry materials and resources including online training and live workshops. Publishers are releasing books covering the different technologies, installation, programming, calibration, and troubleshooting, including industry certifications. Books are also available covering the business aspects of the industry such as design, sales, and project management.

Recognition and Certification
A wide skill set is needed to perform as an EST, Electronic Systems Technician, and DHTI, Digital Home Technology Integrator. Industry associations, product manufacturers, and independent companies are validating knowledge and skills with different kinds of recognition. These acknowledgements can inspire confidence from business partners and potential customers and can be a valuable differentiator in a highly competitive market. Both contractors and homeowners, along with home technology companies, desire to have a common frame of reference verifying the training and knowledge of technicians. Industry certifications exist to help identify qualified and competent people in the market.

Electronics Systems Technician Certification
Through a unique collaboration among some of the most respected industry associations and businesses, the Electronic Systems Professional Alliance (ESPA, is working to build a qualified workforce with the necessary set of entry-level industry knowledge and best practices and to create career opportunities within a unified electronic systems industry. The candidate for this certification has six to nine months experience. The domains include electrical basics, tools, construction methods and materials, wiring and installation practices, standards, codes, and safety practices. Certification is indicated by the designation Certified-EST.

EST Advanced Certification by CEDIA
CEDIA, the Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association, at, is a nonprofit international trade association focusing on the planning and installation of residential electronic systems. The domains of the EST Advanced certification address the knowledge of a technician with five-years experience and include project supervision, codes and standards, installation and setup, and troubleshooting. An individual attaining this certification assists in the training and mentoring of new technicians, interacts with others, installs, troubleshoots, calibrates, programs remotes, works with subsystem integration and control, and ensures the installation meets the design specifications.

Digital Home Technology Integrator Certification by CompTIA
A collaboration between the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA®) and the Computer Technology Industry Association defines the certification for the digital home technology integrator CEA-CompTIA DHTI+, It is the benchmark for today’s technology integrators assuring individuals with 18-24 months experience have the advanced skills and knowledge to configure, integrate, maintain, troubleshoot, and comprehend the basic design concepts of electronic and digital home systems. Domain topics include home networking, audio/video distribution, telephone/VoIP, security and surveillance, home control management, documentation, and troubleshooting.

Specialized Certifications
Industry-experienced individuals desire confirmation and recognition of knowledge and skills in specific areas. Numerous manufacturer certifications exist, along with several in the industry, including the CEDIA Designer certification. Domains covered on this certification exam include needs assessment, project design, design documentation, and design management, and it is assumed the candidate has at least five years of related field experience prior to taking the examination. CompTIA offers additional certifications focused on computers and IT, including A+, Network+, and Project+.

The Future is Bright
Research reveals the rapid growth of the digital home industry has created a skills gap. With the increased offerings of technology for the home and the rapid growth in the number of companies providing installation and services, training is essential. Certification validates the knowledge and skill set of the technician to install, maintain, and repair electronic and digital home electronic systems and can establish comfort and trust with the customer. With a trained and certified industry workforce, the market can be served accurately and efficiently. Everyone involved will benefit from training and industry-recognized certification.

by Helen Heneveld
Bedrock Learning, Inc.
4539 Hemlock Drive
Holland, MI 49423

This article was published for the 2008 CONNECTIONS™ Conference Industry Insights, the official publication of CONNECTIONS™.

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