Must industry rethink what training and development looks like?
Having attended the Essential Install Show at Manchester yesterday, it has left me with a three main perceptions that I feel are quite encouraging; 1. We are in an industry that is still vibrant and forward looking, 2. Training opportunities are definitely available to up skill individuals in Connected Home technologies and 3. Everyone appears to be busier than last year!
My first impression upon entering the exhibition and looking around the stands was that there were fewer exhibitors than last year. Whilst this could have been alarming, after meeting and talking with many of them, they all indicated that they have been extremely busy!
Now my background as you may or may not know is consumer electronic servicing, signal reception and training within these industries and, whilst many organisations have fallen by the wayside over the years as these industries have evolved, there are some shining examples of exhibitors (Antiference, Asheridge, Promax, HD Anywhere and Triax to name a few) that have survived, adapted and (importantly) are still enthusiastic about the industry, their products and the future.
What was also very encouraging was the belief that training was still an absolute necessity and discussing this with people representing KNX training and CEDIA gave some important insights as to how training may also need to adapt to learners’ requirements.
Both of these training providers (and many others) develop and deliver very high quality training courses aimed at up skilling installers with Connected Home competencies and developing the knowledge base of learners towards Connected Home technologies. But here is the rub; the courses on offer are on a block release basis – in other words, the most relevant courses last the duration of 5 continuous days.
Now for a larger organisation this is less of a problem (though it can still be a barrier) as the work that the learner is absent from whilst they are away on the course can usually be covered by another employee. But the real problem is for the small organisation (and in particular for the single man business) who not only has to pay for the training (at a reasonable cost and good value for money mind) but who also takes the hit due to lost earnings which will normally be more than the cost of the training!
This barrier for most individuals in insurmountable and is disabling many very competent individuals who want to diversify into the Connected Home arena. What is clear to me is that if independent installers and small business want (and need) to develop into Connected Home and Smart Home technologies, the industry must have a rethink as to what training and development looks like to make it more accessible for everyone.
This can be overcome though! I’m not necessarily banging the drum purely for e-learning as, whilst this is an excellent medium for transfer of knowledge, it cannot deliver competency based training; this can only be done through demonstration, understanding and replication; delivered in a training room environment by a competent trainer.
I believe that the answer may be provided by utilising a blended learning approach where the knowledge base can be delivered via eLearning with assessment and practical consolidation delivered at a training venue; this would decrease the amount of time spent at the training centre and enable the trainer to concentrate on the up skilling of the relevant competencies. The suppliers and manufacturers have the kit and are very keen to sell it and for it to be installed.
I would like to suggest that training providers consider these ideas and work with RDI to develop them further so that within the next year we have a viable training pathway available for the individual installer to make the most of what is coming up and to ensure that high quality work is consistently carried out.
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In my experience, people do not want to know anything about how the services they rely upon actually work. That it does is enough for most non-technical people. 'Techies' do like to know what is happening, how and why - so that includes many of us contributors to this website.
Most viewers of TV services, as an example, only want to switch on and view their selected programmes. How that happens is of little or no interest providing they can view in comfort. They get really annoyed by having to retune at all, let alone as often as has been the case with Freeview.
Many pupils leaving school, but not all, have a poor understanding of technical matters. They love the smartphone but don't care how it works.
So I believe there is considerable scope to improve training and education for everyone and we should be encouraging people to be more inquisitive about the technologies that run their lives. I still try to learn something new despite having a degree and frequently do MOOCs with organisations like FutureLearn, Open University, etc. It's generally free and there are many course aimed at different levels of 'learner'. We should help and ecourage more technical and scientific knowledge and a better understanding of how it, and other factors, apply in our daily lives.
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Steve Cannon: Its a real growth area for both retailers and specialist companies. We are seeing many more customers buying TV's etc for 'TV rooms', etc. Larger TV's (often wall mounted), sound bars or other audio systems (Sonos, etc), and Sky, NAS systems are all popular, and they all need to be set up.
A lot of the setups are about wall mounting, cables in walls, etc), but there will be increasing number of people who need the software intergrated, etc. Thats potentially much more complex, and training is really going to be needed. If you add to this the sort of tech coming along with white goods, such as fridges, washing machines, heating systems like Hive, and even smart lighting systems like Hue, thats a lot of kit!
Of course a fair number of people have never even bothered to use the 'red button' on their TV, so its not for everyone!
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