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Recruitment: the next generation

According to Ciett, the industry body for recruitment agencies, the global recruitment business grew 8.6% in 2015, recording revenues of €450 billion. Ian McMurray finds out how the AV industry is doing in terms of recruitment – especially in bringing in new, young talent.

The future of any business – or industry, come to that – lies in its people. Ask any business leader, and he or she will confirm that the art is to identify, recruit and retain the best people. It was the charismatic Lee Iacocca – responsible for the development of some of Ford’s most iconic cars and then turning round the fortunes of Chrysler, who famously said: “I hire people brighter than me and then I get out of their way.”

If finding and hiring the right talent is indeed crucial for success – what does the future hold for the AV industry? Is the future bright? It depends who you speak to.

Victoria Neeson, director for the Americas at Dreamtek – whose business includes recruitment into the industry – believes there are challenges. “I believe the AV industry has problems recruiting young people,” she says. “It’s been an issue for a very long time now. The industry has traditionally been viewed as an ‘old boys’ network’ where it can be very difficult to progress through the ranks – and with limited progression and career opportunities, young people are not interested in pursuing a career in AV. The industry needs to find a way of attracting new talent with an emphasis on high tech, mobility and communications, all of which appeal to the younger generation. AV companies also need to focus on building succession plans to offer new talent a long-term career in AV.”

Massive opportunity

Neeson implies that there is the potential to do better – and that’s echoed by Aneta Armova-Levin, CEDIA’s education manager.

“We don’t believe that we have a problem recruiting young people,” she avers, “but we do believe that there is a massive opportunity here for our AV industry. This industry is growing at incredible speed, and is perfect for the digital native generation that has grown up surrounded by more technology than ever. The challenge we face is making them aware of our industry as a career path, and getting the right structures in place for them to access the right training and progress.”

Francesca Hazell, operations director at integrator proAV, sees some positive signs. “Recruitment in general has been made easier in the past few years due to the access and availability of social media,” she claims. “That’s certainly the case with younger candidates as they are actively online using LinkedIn and Facebook. Graduate fairs have helped and also regular communication with local higher education establishments and universities has given us access to up-and-coming graduates with an interest in our sector.”

“Word of mouth from existing staff has also played a part in communicating with younger generations through friends and family members of employees that know of younger people looking for a career in AV,” she continues.

As well as the perceptions of the industry noted by Neeson, there may be others. “The AV industry doesn’t have the same high profile of, for instance, the IT and electrical engineering markets and therefore young people with the right skills are less likely to plan themselves a career path in AV,” believes Chris Edwards, marketing director at AV solutions company CIE-Group. “However, we do find that those entering the AV market frequently have a view that AV equals pro audio, with an expectation to be working in the live performance or recording market. The AV installation market tends to be ‘off the radar’ for young engineers and techies coming into the market.”

If what Edwards says is, in fact, the reality – how should the industry be communicating what it is all about, and what it offers, such that it’s seen as an attractive proposition?

Exciting times

“The AV industry offers jobs in a growing sector that are exciting and well compensated,” says Betsy Jaffe, senior vice president of member services at InfoComm. “AV has transformed the way we communicate and make decisions. It’s a stimulating career that doesn’t necessarily require attendance at a university.”

“It’s the variety of what we do as a sector that never fails to amaze me,” smiles Blair Parkin, managing partner at consultancy Tandemonium Partners. “From building theatrical venues to meeting and gathering spaces in business environments. From interactive exhibits in war museums to digitally scanning 3D mummies in the British Museum. And then there’s all the other sectors from healthcare to education. The only other two professions that I can think that serve such a broad community are IT and architectural design.”

It’s that same sheer range and variety that the industry offers that Rob Grays, managing director of the Prospero Group, finds compelling. “It’s an exciting industry working on a number of different projects and products within a variety of different environments,” he offers. “And, just as importantly, it’s a career: your junior installation engineer today is your operations director tomorrow.”