Attendees gathered in Chicago last month for Notifier's educational seminar, where a number of panelists discussed fire standards and codes and technological developments in mass notification, fire and life safety.
Photo credit: Photo: Natalia Kosk
Whether security or another industry, there is a criteria of education and skill-sets to learn in order to excel. And with the amount of educational resources available in security, it can become downright overwhelming to know which route to take. Is there a standard cost for training in the industry? Should I pay to get my team trained? What free training resources are available? What are the regulations and licensing requirements within my state? Which certifications are critical to an installer? What is the difference between one training school versus the next?
The questions seem endless but the resources are there. It is just a matter of what steps as systems integrators and dealers to take first. Before you choose a manufacturer to align with, make sure you understand the basics of the technology and which verticals you want the jobs in, whether it be access control, IP video, alarm installation, residential systems and home automation or all of the above. Next, start asking around or browsing the Web. The majority of this industry works through word-of-mouth and often times, just asking questions may provide you with more information than you expected. Visit some of the leading security associations Web sites-the Electronic Security Association (ESA), PSA Security, BICSI, ASIS, the Security Industry Association (SIA), CEDIA-to see what they have to offer and when in doubt, pick up the phone and call that 800 number.
"One of the problems in this industry is that there was never really a formalized training path," said Dale Eller, ESA director of Education and Standards, ESA National Training School (NTS), Erie, Pa. "Many companies and the installers and the salespeople are really struggling with understanding the path to take," said Eller. "They knew that they wanted to get more involved in fire or video or whatever segment it was, but they weren't really clear as far as what their options were with training and certifications. Developing that roadmap, we saw it as a first big step to establishing certification," Eller confirmed.
The ESA NTS created a Knowledge Roadmap which is based around six segments of technology: intrusion, fire, access control, video surveillance, service/repair and systems integration. Business owners can look at this roadmap, address the segment they want to tailor to and gain the certifications, standards and technology-background to succeed.
Take it step by step
"Training is a several step process," Eller continued. "You need to have a solid foundation of training because no matter what you build above it, it's only going to be as solid as the beginning. And we are that foundation point. After that, the manufacturer needs to pick up where we left off."
Some of the recent NTS-developed certifications include the Certified Service Technician (CST) and Certified Systems Integrator (CSI) certifications, primarily for the top-tier leading integrators who have gone through advanced level training. ESA recently revamped its Web site, offering a structured educational resource portal for security professionals.
BICSI, Tampa, Fla., an association that supports the information technology (IT) systems and infrastructure industry, is another educational resource that recently partnered with Cisco to provide educational and training opportunities in addition to credentials and certifications. Cisco provides training and certification for the Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) model's network layer. BICSI, a standards-making organization, offers training courses and credentials for those working in the OSI physical and data link layers.
Get 'schooled' in and out of the classroom
But it doesn't just come down to the installers and dealers getting the right training. Instructors and trainers are adopting new training methods as the shift to online services becomes increasingly popular. The use of Webinars, tutorial YouTube videos, whitepapers, informational e-newsletters and even the advent of online tradeshows have seen an uptick. And even some businesses are now requiring new hires to have some sort of "online" activity background, whether blogging or proactively using social networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to build a brand. Trainers are also seeing requests for a more hands-on approach in the classroom.
"A lot of our attendees want the next level of training while others want to have a switch in front of them that they can program," said Jeff Stout, network solutions manager, Tri-Ed/Northern Video Distribution, Woodbury, N.Y. This hands-on approach using hardware switches in class would be targeted in the second tier of training, which encompasses students getting training from manufacturers. "And we will help facilitate that to get folks to that next level of vendor specific training."
The Level II IP training seminar addresses IP topics including network design best practices; IP naming structure; the OSI model; and switch basics. The class is being offered at every Tri-Ed/Northern Video branch location throughout 2011.
"If training is not interactive, it will fail," Stout continued. "Training is a hot topic but it is a dry topic. Everyone is talking about networks and IP. Most of the vendors out there have something that is network-based. Resolution can be very boring but if you can take practical applications and address the questions and challenges these installers run into on the job, that is where you get their attention."
Yet while in-classroom training can provide a more hands-on approach, outside of the classroom students are able to become trained more at their own pace and also cut travel costs, one of the benefits to online training, according to Jeff Taylor, director, Channel Strategy & Marketing for March Networks, Atlanta.
"Training our dealers and end-users is something we take very seriously," explained Taylor. "Education is the linchpin. Educating our resellers, there are three things that I keep in mind-quality content, accessibility and relevancy. It's not educating about product but about the applicability of those products. We want to make sure we offer a lot of different ways our dealers and integrators can access this information."
Video management solutions provider March Networks offers a number of resources in an online structure, including data sheets, a library of shorter on-demand voiced-over modules on how to use programs effectively, similar to that of mini case studies and online training using a virtual workstation.
Dealers can also find a specific section on the Web site dedicated to the company's Partner Connections program, which provides incentives for dealers including the HD PowerPack, product bundles, competitive displacement programs, deal registration and more.
Another resource to turn to for education is your local distributor. Distributors are working with their vendors to provide more technology-driven Webinars which serve as a great source for those who are at the stage in choosing a provider to partner with.
"The distribution model is such an important factor in the security space, if we don't take a leadership role and offer a value-add service like training and facilitate that, then I don't think we are doing our job for our dealer base," confirmed Stout. "We work with our vendors and give them an idea of what we want, which is a technically-based presentation and not just product literature cut sheets on a PowerPoint slide. We wanted a technical presentation that addressed the question: 'how do I install this camera or NVR or software on a network and make it work?'"
A big part of training also comes from being in the field and at security tradeshows held each year across the country. The PSA-TEC conference, presented by the PSA Security Network, Westminster, Colo., brings dealers and systems integrators together for an entire week with one focus-training, training and more training. While attendees have to pay to access the event, (for members, the cost is $399 for the week; for non-members, the cost is $449), the value in attending educational sessions without interruption for vendor visits allows folks to really make the most of their time and get the targeted training they paid for.
"Installers have to invest in their education," said Sharon Shaw, director of Education, PSA Security Network. "It comes to the question: 'are you working on your business or in your business?' We have a lot of integrators who focus quite a bit on employee development. But often times, people get stuck trying to evaluate what training is going to bring back to their business." Shaw added that Webinars, whitepapers and additional online resources are a great way for professionals to educate themselves throughout the year.
One of the other training challenges that dealers and integrators must overcome is the idea that an hour of training at a security tradeshow is enough.
"The greatest disservice I've ever seen a dealer do to themselves is to try and cut short the training process," said Eller. "There are a large percentage of folks who sit at one of these educational sessions at an ASIS or ISC West and think they know all they need to know about a topic." Eller stressed the importance of knowing state regulations and abiding by them. "The 90-minute courses are not enough," he continued. "Installers have to abide by laws to get licensed."
According to Shaw, many questions that the PSA Security Network received at last year's conference addressed additional services and training and networking best practices. What training is available for those wanting to offer managed services? How do I compensate my team for selling these services?
"Our whole goal is to help our integrators improve their businesses to better serve their market," confirmed Shaw.
The tools and resources are available. It is up to systems integrators and dealers to get on that training ladder and take it to the top-one step at a time.
Catch Up on Your Reading
Whitepapers are a great resource to have on hand or download to your mobile device. Below are a few of the noteworthy ones we found from leading technology providers and systems integrators:
www.cedia.org/marketplace (The Understanding EDID whitepaper on HDMI is free to CEDIA members)
Click This for Training!
For more information regarding educational training resources available in the industry, put these online portal links in your browser: