Training Tomorrow’s CCTV Designers

A Q&A with Pelco’s JR Correa, taking CCTV training to vocational schools

There’s been a lot of talk in our industry about how poorly we’re doing in encouraging the next generation of the workforce in the security industry. As an industry, and as employers, we’re faced with the need for increasing technical expertise plus knowledge of the basics of security systems installations like cable pulls. Like it or not, our industry has been in a bit of a crunch for talent.

In California, around the Fresno area, that’s starting to change. Pelco, a manufacturer of technical security and video systems based in Clovis, Calif., has been behind a program that brings vocation training to local high schools. And behind Pelco is the work of one passionate man, Agustin “JR” Correa, a former vocation teacher turned Pelco systems trainer, who is taking his position with one of the leading video surveillance companies and giving back to the community. Correa has helped lead a program Duncan Polytechnical High School that teaches high school students in the essential of video surveillance systems and design. In his own words, it’s been very popular and the students coming out are very excited to get real-world technical knowledge and skills that can land them good jobs.

The program will be seeing its first students graduate this summer, and Pelco is working with other area high schools to expand the program. caught up with JR on Friday afternoon to talk about the industry-building work he’s been doing.

SIW: What was happening that necessitated this type of program to teach video surveillance?

They needed more involvement from business and basically the kids needed more guidance. We were doing a networking curriculum before, and the kids weren’t seeing the advantage of the curriculum and it was getting costly for the schools. With the cameras they’re hands-on, they’re actually being able to touch them and do more with them. And they want to learn a lot more.

Clearly this is needed in our industry? What is the job market like and what is industry facing if it doesn’t get behind this kind of training?

There is a lot of potential for jobs. The integrators need workers. The ADTs, the Simple-Grinnells, the Tycos of the world are looking for people with some kind of experience in the field.

Lack of skilled people has been a biggest problem, and not only in our industry. Just try to get a plumber or an electrician now, and they’re charging about what a doctor would charge. It’s really hard now to get any kind of vocational person because where would you learn plumbing or where would you learn electrical? You’d have to go become an apprentice for somebody and that is where you’d have to learn your skills. We’re not teaching to the children anymore in the schools; we’re in this mentality that everyone is going to college, or that the junior colleges are going to teach these skills. Well, they’re not. Most of these kids will not make it through college, and the dropout rate in the first few weeks of college is really high. What we’re trying to do now is to say here is a career; here is something you can do. Now you can walk into a company and say, “I do know the terminology, and I do know the basics, and I’m trainable.” And that’s what we’re looking to do is make them so that they are trainable. Whereas if you walked in right now and you wanted to be a plumber, you’d have to go find somebody that would let you be an apprentice, and they’d have to take a big chance on you because you wouldn’t know anything about the field or about the industry. Now, they’re coming out and they can say, “I know what a bat box is; I know what AGC is; I know what wide dynamic range is.” If they know the terminology, the employer can look at them and say, yes, this is someone who understands the field.

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