“Over the last 30 years, America has convinced itself that the best path for the most people is an expensive, four-year degree. Pop culture has glorified the “corner office job” while unintentionally belittled the jobs that helped build the corner office. As a result, our society has devalued any other path to success and happiness. Community colleges, trade schools, and apprenticeship programs are labeled as “alternative.” Millions of well-intended parents and guidance counselors see apprenticeships and on-the-job training opportunities as “vocational consolation prizes,” best suited for those not cut out for the brass ring: a four-year degree. The push for higher education has coincided with the removal of vocational arts from high schools nationwide. And the effects of this one-two punch have laid the foundation for a widening skills gap and massive student loan debt. – (Mike Rowe Works Foundation)
The above statement from the Mike Rowe Works Foundation resonates with me because I started my professional career as a US Navy SEABEE Construction Electrician, working in a Construction Battalion. As a young sailor, I received formal training in electrical theory, electrical and communications construction and basic project management processes. I eventually moved into a more senior role, but the trades skills and processes I learned early on became the cornerstone of my work philosophy. So, the current skills gap in vocational training is an obvious constraint to me, as we interview potential candidates for technical positions that require more traditional “hands-on” trades skills.
As a Veteran Owned Small Business focused on supporting Department of Defense and Federal clients worldwide, it is important to our growth to help close the gap in vocational skills of our junior technical staff members. C3EL specializes in building command centers worldwide. We provide audiovisual (AV) design-build, operations and maintenance services to our clients. Our team is comprised of industry professionals, engineers, technicians and logisticians, who develop everything from the project plan, designs, procurement, engineering conceptual designs and integration, to the full systems commissioning and training.
I gravitated to the AV industry as I realized it required a wide range of skills beyond the technology. From structural load calculations, to electrical load calculations, sheet metal work, fabrication, electrical and HVAC modifications, fine woodwork casings and accents, and other interior design elements; all before we get to video distribution, audio systems, video walls and the associated cabling, infrastructure, IT and automation.
The Audio-Visual industry is still not well understood outside of our own circles, in that the bulk of our work is highly physical. We depend on our high-end engineers and programmers to develop and commission the systems, but 90 percent of the overall effort is installation; skilled technical labor.
With that in mind, we needed a way to develop strong vocational skills within our installation teams to reduce dependency on outside resources, and to provide true turnkey solutions. We have addressed the shortage of available hands-on vocational skills by developing focused on the job sessions and formal classes, to fill the need for directly relevant vocational training that is not readily available through standard industry training channels. This training includes electrical theory, networks for AV Techs, steel frame construction, sheet metal fabrication, finish carpentry, advanced MS Excel, AutoCAD design, and a few others, in our growing list of internal training curricula.
Our charter of “train up” to meet the needs, instead of outsourcing talent, has led to new growth and opportunities in areas beyond our original goals. One of those is a new division within our company that specializes in the construction and renovation of sensitive compartmental information facilities (SCIF) spaces.
Although we are in the beginning stages of our formal training program, which is designed to meet our immediate needs, we intend to expand and develop these programs to soon offer them to our industry partners.
Stay tuned as we strive to impact our industry…
Billie J. McDuffee. CEO
Command and Control Communications, Engineering & Logistics, LLC
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