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Educating beyond 2020: Thoughts from the coalface

CEDIA's Samantha Ventura explains how the trade body adjusted to the 'new normal'

As an education leader [senior vice president, education and training at CEDIA] who also happens to work for an association committed to supporting its global members throughout the pandemic… well, I’m sure you can imagine the range of responsibilities that have evolved over the past year. Yet I am proud to say, as an organisation CEDIA has attempted to do its best to support the various needs of our members, our partner organisations, and our global industry. We haven’t gotten it right every time, but we have tried to do our best, and that has meant being flexible, open to suggestions, and supporting strong collaboration with our volunteers, who have done more than we could have ever hoped for to help support their friends and industry partners during this critical time.

Multiple challenges

We saw our members dealing with a variety of challenges: compounded personal and professional responsibilities, financial worries, health concerns and uncertainties, downsizing, and many who did not feel the hit to their bottom line but felt the hit to their employee morale, their company culture, and even their ability to meet the needs of their clients.

Some felt incredibly overwhelmed with how to navigate as a leader in this ‘new normal.’ We also saw some of our business owners struggling with answering questions and providing solutions regarding diversity practices in their own workplace, recognising the need for maintaining equitable hiring practices and professional development opportunities to meet the demands of a changing industry, but not exactly certain how or where to start.

In short, 2020 has been a year of challenges, adjustments, and most importantly, reflection.

At CEDIA we immediately mobilised our global team to first recognise the struggles our members were having within their organisations. We surveyed, launched the CEDIA Strong campaign, provided free educational opportunities, wrote articles, hosted global webinars and podcasts, and attempted to do what we could to support some semblance of normal for our members, while we watched the world continue to spin and reel from Covid-19 with effects that could not be predicted nor controlled. We also forged ahead to launch the CEDIA Academy, completed our two new career pathways and corresponding certifications, hosted our 2020 Expo virtual conference, and persevered to finish up the remaining pieces of ANSI accreditation for our Standards and our Certifications.

Uncharted territory

We stayed the course, but also recognised the uncharted territory we were having to navigate. In fact, there was no ‘absolute trend’ that dominated during this past year with regard to people losing or gaining business, downsizing or hiring, pivoting or doubling down on tried and true business strategies – most everyone was pushed into a survival mode mentality that became very specific to all of our members and their individual challenges. There was no ‘one size fits all’ response that could satisfy a large group with similar struggles, as the struggles were independently experienced by all of our members, their families, and the people they directly work with internally and externally.

The most we could do was outline a strategy to help our members best navigate these rocky waters, while preparing to build programs to support them and their businesses for when we are all safely back to shore.

The education we provided during the CEDIA Strong campaign was shared virtually through our own channels, and through events hosted by many of our industry partners. We featured topics on leading through change, best practices for virtual presentations, how to use digital marketing for economic reach, just to name a few.

We changed our CEDIA Outreach Instructor program to a fully virtual model, providing better reach into the credentialing class and allowing for more relationships to be built by our COIs with their design and build communities. We strived to localise all our online content and worked to create education that is more diversified and inclusive, committing to educate a holistically trained workforce. We continued to focus on our industry standards and released white papers and classes that took concepts and explored them experientially in our online learning environment.

We waited along with everyone else for better news and a hopeful outcome.

Professional development

Every step of the way, as an education team, we challenged ourselves to think outside the box, brush up on our own professional development, and tried to bring topics to the forefront that would be both practical and aspirational for our members. We kept in close contact with our volunteers, we tried to keep to some of what we had scheduled for this year, and in some instances asked for grace for the things we just could not see to completion. Throughout the entire year we were unwavering in our commitment to live up to our own catch phrase, ‘we are strongest when we are stronger together.’

Now, as we finish out 2020 and look ahead to all that we have planned in 2021, we are hopeful, and we are grateful. We have listened to our members this year and have developed our 2021 plans and goals with their needs in mind. We are energised by all that we have laid out for completion: higher level tracks of learning, new in-person workshops, topics that are explored in a variety of ways and offered through different avenues to meet the needs and the global regions of all our learners.

foundation knowledge
We are proud of our two new certifications, the Cabling and Infrastructure (CIT) and the Integrated Systems Technician (IST) certifications, and the pathways of learning that accompany them. We are committed to providing the best foundational knowledge for a technician in our industry, as well as working to offer the hands-on training that helps take that knowledge to practice, with some of our best industry experts and trainers. We have come to 2021 with an arsenal of knowledge and we are thrilled to be able to share it with our members and our industry.

And we are also grateful. While our members were experiencing stress, sadness, worry, and unrest, we were as well. As an organisation we saw employees furloughed, leadership changes, long hours and endless tasks and initiatives. We also saw our members and our volunteers connecting with us, asking us for help when needed, and helping us when they were asked by our teams for ‘just one more thing.’ There were many virtual meetings and phone calls and it was amazing to see that CEDIA Strong was in theory a campaign but in reality a connection, bringing everyone within our CEDIA family, internally and externally, together to get through this year in strong support of one another.

Challenging adversity
If this year has taught us anything, it is that there is no ‘normal’ and no way to ever fully predict and prepare for what may come. Yet to see the dedication, commitment, and resilience of our members, our volunteers, our teams, and our industry, we feel inspired to challenge adversity together, continuing to push the boundaries on what we have done in the past, to make way for collaborative innovation in the future..