Training Tomorrow’s CCTV Designers

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

I’m a field trainer and I travel all over for Pelco, and as I talk to a lot of integrators. They tell me they’re having trouble finding people who are qualified, who can run the wires and terminate the camera and have a look at it. With security growing so quickly, we really don’t have a market where enough kids are showing an interest in this and saying this is a field where I could be employed. Integrators I have talked to have been very supportive of the program. And we’ve spoken with some other companies in the alarm space who would love to see these kids get more alarm panel training so that would make them more marketable in the industry because that way they could maybe learn to do fire alarms also – so that’s something we’re looking at as well. We’re trying to make these kids as well rounded in the industry as we can with fire, alarms and CCTV, and then they might be able to choose where they want to go.

How did this start? Did you take your knowledge of vocational training and take this idea to the schools?

I went to the schools. I used to be a vocational teacher, and I had a friend who was working at Pelco. We were talking one night and a light went off, and I thought this would be something great to bring to these kids – something tangible that they can actually grab a camera and work with it. He was helping me to create that, but then I actually learned of a job opening at Pelco and I came to work here. I started working here and I still had that dream that this would be a great program. So I just went ahead and started creating the program and using things that we already had. I had a great deal of support from the different departments and from the managers. A lot of the managers got behind my vision and they’ve helped it along.

In terms of curriculum, what are the biggest challenges of getting this knowledge out there?

The hardest thing for them to learn is the electrical theory, but they’re also having a challenge with the mass of products out there today. There are so many products out there and they’re trying to figure out what the difference is between two DVRs, or why they should choose this camera over this camera. Because of that, we’re going to revamp our product overview curriculum for next year and what we’re going to do is to get them to see more videos. When you talk to a student and you talk about AGC (automatic gain control), you tell them when the light starts to go down, we’re going to activate AGC to pick up more light. Well, you can tell them that in theory, but until you show them that, they really don’t see it. Now, we’re going to actually take some videos of that and incorporate them into the program. Or we talk about wide dynamic range and backlighting where you open a door and all of sudden there is a lot of white light, and we ask, “What can we do to fix that?” And so we show them that this camera can take of that. We’re trying to give them examples of that.

The schools have a few cameras, we donate some things to them, and they borrow some equipment from us and they actually do the wiring and hook up the cameras. They have a couple of DVRs there and they actually test things out. They also do the design. We give them some floor plans from different buildings. We might design for their school, and we’ll say we’re going to 50 cameras and they need to tell us where the cameras are going to be put in, where they are going to use fixed cameras, and where they are going use PTZs. They’re going to tell us how much it is going to cost, what the labor costs will be – so they actually have to come back with a full plan, basically a bid proposal. They put their heads together as a group and they come back and say, “This is our plan. This is how much in equipment; this is how much in labor, and this is how much for profit.”

How do they take this into the real world?

They’ve been able to come to Pelco and do two interviews per student. We give them a job descriptions that we have here, and they come here and we give them fifteen minutes to sell themselves to the managers. The managers actually give a critique back on how they did in their interview and things that they can work on. And that’s huge, because now when they graduate and go out and do their real interviews, they know how it works.

We also did job-shadowing, where some of the jobs that they “applied” for in the interviews, they actually got. So they got to come in and listen on the phones with the tech support. They went to a tradeshow and were able to see how the video systems are built for the booth at the tradeshow. They were able to go to finance and sales and see actual meetings, so they got to see the business culture.