Creating a Fix for the Security Industry's Workforce Shortage

Has your company felt the pinch when seeking out skilled persons to install and service the security and alarm systems you sell?

If so, then keep reading because there's good news on the way.

At ISC East 2005 in New York, the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association, in conjunction with the California Alarm Association (CAA) and the Western States Burglar and Fire Alarm Association (WBFAA), announced that it was embarking on the development of a four-year distance learning program designed to train electronic system specialists.

The program, which will be handled by the NBFAA's National Training School, will be the first of its kind and will be patterned closely after an apprenticeship program already in existence in California.

According to the CAA's Jerry Lenander, when the online training program goes operational, alarm companies across the nation will be able to turn to it to ensure uniform training standards for their techs and apprentices.

George Gunning, the NBFAA's vice president/president elect, and owner of USA Alarm Systems in Monrovia, Calif., says the program gives the industry its first chance at creating a resource for hiring.

"The industry never has had a way to build a labor pool," explains Gunning, who donated a significant amount of his own money to help develop the program. "Once it's online, we're going to be able to go to job fairs and show people a career path in our industry. We'll be able to show how they can advance [in both training and pay scale] in the industry."

Gunning also stressed the importance of having national standards for technicians in the industry: "When it's done, I'll be able to hire someone from Maine, and they'll be trained where they could come out and work in California."

Gunning was among a number of donors who have raised $150,000 to develop the training modules. Also on board for the funding was Protect Security Systems of America, which made a generous $50,000 donation to reach the program's goal. Doug Shackley also presented a donation from Pacific Auxiliary Fire Alarm Company (a dealer company out of San Francisco), as did Ron Dalton, an active CAA member representing ADT Security Services.

Shane Clary of San Francisco's Bay Alarm, who has been highly involved in the development of the program, agreed with Gunning's survey of the labor pool.

"We still cannot find enough good people," said Clary. "Today people are being hired to install that sometimes have no experience. They don't know what wires they're pulling. They may be doing testing but they don't know how to use their meters, and that's really happening in the industry right now. If they don't have the resources, many of the smaller companies how have to hope to get people who have already been trained by larger companies."

The proposed program, which could become active as early as spring 2006, would not only require the technicians and apprentices to be enrolled in the online learning program, but they would also have to be sponsored by an installing company. That on-the-job element is a key facet to the program, which seeks to instill real-world experience with technical study on the web. The goal is to start training students as they leave high school, and give them the tools they need to enter an industry that's becoming more and more high-tech as each day passes.

The current $150,000 funding will provide for a 20-week development of the program, which is being handled by the CMOOR Group, a web-training specialty firm that developed SecurityCEU.com. The program is expected to cover not only alarm and wiring basics but will also allow students to focus on specialty areas such as IP systems, CCTV and access control technologies.

The program will allow security dealer companies to meet future possibilities of mandated apprenticeship programs, such as the one already in operation in California and the one approved for creation in the state of Washington, says Lenander.

"I think it will professionalize the industry," concludes Gunning. "Most industries already have a system for training. Doctors don't just become doctors by going to school for one day."

To learn more about the program, contact George Gunning of the NBFAA at george@usaalarmsystems.com.

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