The Electronic Systems Professional Alliance (ESPA) has just announced the results of the industry’s first-ever survey of electronics systems technicians (ESTs) and their views of their careers and training.
With more than 450 respondents across a wide variety of EST fields (audio, video, networking, IT, cable, satellite, lighting, home control, alarm and telecom), the survey shows that technicians often have very long careers in the electronics industry.
More than half of the respondents (58 percent) had been in electronics for more than 10 years, with another 18 percent being in the industry from 5 to 9 years.
The respondent pool was split 64/36 in terms of technicians focused primarily on residential projects versus commercial projects.
“This survey reached out to experienced technicians to tell us how they were trained and how employers should help the next wave of employees,” said Grant Mydland, executive director of ESPA. “ESTs are a highly knowledgeable group – 87 percent of respondents had completed some college coursework, with more than a third (35 percent) of all respondents having obtained a bachelors, masters or doctorate degree. Plus, 92 percent had participated in some training or certification related to their current jobs.”
Approximately half (51 percent) of respondents started in the field because they had a personal interest in electronics. ESPA theorized that these senior-level technicians most likely had their personal interests nurtured by the dot.com boom, greater awareness of the “Mission to the Moon” era, and electronics courses that use to be more available but have been abandoned in many schools in the last decade.
Another 24 percent joined the field because they like the variety and challenge the industry provides. When asked why they stay in the industry, an overwhelming 76 percent said they’re interested in and/or love the work they do.
Respondents also liked how the industry provides opportunities for them to be challenged. Compensation and job stability mattered to a fourth of the respondents but ranked much farther down the list than the work itself.
Despite the soft economy, the job market for ESTs has remained fairly even: 39 percent of respondents say their companies have the same number of technicians as a year ago, 28 percent say they have more technicians, and 26 percent say they have fewer technicians.
Most technicians are also satisfied with their jobs with 83 percent claiming to be “somewhat or very satisfied” with their current position. Training opportunities were cited by 69 percent of the respondents as somewhat or very important to their job satisfaction.
In fact, 62 percent of respondents said they think that low-voltage certification/licensing should be required for their work, yet 70 percent of employers and jurisdictions don’t require any kind of low-voltage certification/licensing.
CEDIA, manufacturer-sponsored, and CompTIA training were the programs most taken by respondents. Only 7 percent of respondents would not pursue any additional training because they felt they had enough training already for their jobs. More than half of the respondents (54 percent) said they plan on pursuing more EST training or certifications in the next year.
target=“_blank"The survey also noted, however, that less than half (46 percent) of the respondents say their companies reward them with money or title advancement for training or certifications.
One of ESPA’s key objectives is to promote low-voltage courses in high school and college settings to give inquisitive and mechanically aspiring students more opportunities to pursue courses that are critical to 21st century jobs.
“Only 2 percent of the respondents said a teacher or course in school was their primary motivator for getting involved in the industry,” added Mydland “That low number indicates why America is falling farther behind our competitors. We don’t have teachers available to motivate kids to pursue the courses that will prepare them for 21st century jobs.”
Respondents thought much more could be done to prepare incoming technicians at high schools and post-secondary schools. Nearly half (49 percent) said that their high school coursework did “not at all prepare them” for a career as a technician. Some of the items respondents said high schools should offer include:
- Vocational education courses tailored to an electronic technician’s career
- Placing more emphasis on matching an individuals talents to potential careers
- Soft-skills courses (communication, professional conduct, work readiness, etc.)
- Teachers with EST-related experience
- Provide guidance counselors with more information about EST as a career option
- Field trips, job fairs, or on-site exposure to EST-focused careers
To help prepare the next generation of technicians, the top three programs respondents would like to see more EST classes included in high schools, colleges and career training centers, as well as apprenticeships for ESTs and more trade association-based training programs.
“ESPA is stepping up its efforts to reach secondary and post-secondary schools to develop EST certification courses as part of their curriculum this year,” added Mydland. “With this outreach, we hope to bring not only high-school and young adults into the industry but also military veterans and others looking for a second career that have a strong interest in electronics.”
For technicians already in the industry but still lacking certification, the ESPA Certified-EST is the foundation for their training. Candidates can find out more about the program at www.ESPA.org, take the pre-test assessment (which will be available in late January and helps the individual identify what level of training they may need to pass the certification exam), and register for the next review course and exam which will be offered at Electronic House Expo in Orlando, www.ehexpo.com, in March.
ESPA’s EST Career Survey is a quantitative study fielded to an international sample of electronics systems technicians belonging to a wide array of trade and professional associations. A total of 455 completed responses were collected via online web form during the month of December 2008. The resulting margin of error is approximately +/- 4.6 percent at 95 percent confidence and may vary depending on the size of the sub-group.
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