Training Failure Imposes a Material Cost
SEN spent years droning on about technical training in a bid to encourage the creation of national technical standards for electronic security installers. Other organisations have taken up the torch at various times over intervening years but none has succeeded.
Whether this is an issue relating to the challenge of getting consensus between the educational systems of multiple states, or whether it’s been a lack of financial application is a moot point. Something that has not changed in all those years is the lack of capable technicians. Decades after the last Wormald apprentices came through, the situation is worse than it’s ever been. Technology has not stayed still, yet the addition of networking as a new support strata has not removed the need for installers and integrators to have a handle on the fundamentals of electronics.
Today, our technicians need to understand cabling, power and UPS solutions, wired and wireless telecomms, alarm systems, bus or IP-based automation systems, access control solutions – serial and digital, intercoms and video surveillance systems. Flitting between the trunks of these primary disciplines are aspects of installation no less vital for performance and reliability. Techs need to understand electronic locking solutions (integrated as well as standalone units), internal and external intrusion technologies and have an idea of defending likely approaches. They need to appreciate lens technology – to understand the impact of aperture settings and the impact of selected depth of field. They need to understand lighting and how it impacts image streams.
Complicating matters is the cross-over between hardware devices and IP networks. Many installers are comfortable installing an IP camera but once it’s on the wall, lens fitted and focused, things come unstuck. The back-end of an IP camera is a browser-based library of optional extras that no installer can sensibly ignore. Engaging with it might involve tuning a camera’s bit rate to give the best recorded image for review during investigations, or it might involve applying dual camera settings that automatically switch over to squeeze best performance from a camera at night.
Underlying and overlying all this is networking. Not just building subnets, but sharing networks, and not just LANs but WANs. Then there are associated areas of networking, including mobile applications that demand a more than passing comprehension of secure smart device setup and maintenance. And overarching all this other stuff we have solutions management, or PSIM, perhaps best described as the singular expression of multiple sub-system inputs and outputs on a workstation, in real time.
It’s not as if integration companies are oblivious to their needs. Speaking with integrators recently, all told me their greatest difficulty was finding, training and keeping hold of quality technicians. Most it seems, cobble together good technicians via a combination of electrical and IT trades, courses run by manufacturers and plenty of hands-on experience. And this group of techs is a valuable commodity – the best of them worth between $80-100,000 annually.
From an observer’s point of view, it’s interesting that the industry’s general unwillingness to establish and fund a national curriculum that might be linked with licensing has led to the very thing from which it bridled – increased financial cost.
And there’s an impact on end users, too, and for the same fundamental reasons. Continued downward pressure on integration costs is leading to the application of poor technologies by unqualified technicians. Over the long term this means less reliable and less secure security solutions, and the decay of trust between end users and the industry that serves them.
By John Adams