Determining the future path of ESA's National Training School (NTS) isn't that much different from planning any other journey: In order to figure out where we're going and how to get there, we first have to understand where we are today.
In the evolution of electronic security, the service delivery model has steadily moved from the tactical to the technical. What was once a level playing field with a rather parochial product offering and a labor-intensive business model has transformed into a highly specialized industry where integration and scalability are a part of virtually every provided solution.
As complexity increases, companies are forced to adapt, to adjust to a changing market, a changing economy, and an evolving product line. We now live in a world where education has become the differentiator, carrying a major impact on your company's bottom line. It's no longer a luxury, but a requirement for remaining competitive in an industry that is moving forward along so many fronts.
Fortunately, despite all the change in today's security industry, there is a constant. The technician is always the single most important factor in the equation, and that's not likely to change anytime soon.
With this understanding of where we are today, here's how we're moving forward in a new chapter at NTS:
- Since technicians are the key to our industry's success, we remain focused on the delivery of relevant, building-block educational experiences that address students' needs at all career levels.
- We will add new classes to address advancements in technology while refining our core curriculum that serves as both the launching point and landing pad for industry professionals across all disciplines.
- We will further our mission, and increase our relevance to the industry as a whole, by growing our ability to deliver online education "on demand."
So many things have changed since my early years in the industry, learning the ins and outs of burglar alarm installation. It was before the days of fancy words like "intrusion," when a shunt switch was considered integration.
I recall a conversation once between our most senior technical staff person and our greenest, most inexperienced "grunt," someone my kids today would call a "newbie." I vividly recall the frustration in his voice as he exclaimed: "How can I ever learn from my mistakes if you never let me make any?"
The conversation took place 20 years ago, but the message is still valid. Staff education is the key ingredient to a successful organization. What's even more relevant is that, in today's world of electronic security, the cost of an error is exponentially greater than it was 20 years ago, while the margin for error grows increasingly smaller.
NTS is here with educational opportunities that will prepare the "newbies" of today – as well as every other industry professional – for any challenge. It's ready to instill a mistake-free mindset into every aspect of your business and train security employees to the highest level of competence, proficiency and excellence.
Q&A with Howard Sanders
Q: Nationwide, everyone's still waiting for an economic recovery that seems to be coming along very slowly, if it's happening at all. There's still an emphasis on cutting costs, and two of the traditionally popular targets have been training and travel. What's the strongest case to be made for electronic security companies to keep the knife away from the training budget?
A: The best businesses we see are the ones that understand the cost associated with not having a trained workforce. For that reason, they resist the urge to forgo investment in their staff, and they're committed to providing their best and brightest talent with an opportunity to become more knowledgeable across all disciplines within the electronic security field.
As we speak with industry employers from across the country, we're finding that a down economy can cut both ways. For many employers, the soft job market gives them an opportunity to upgrade talent that they otherwise would not be able to attract due to wage constraints. And for employees, those with the best skills and most credentials have found it much easier to stay employed or become re-employed, using education and experience as their differentiator in the workplace. So it makes sense for everyone in the industry to take advantage of training opportunities.
Q: There are a lot of exciting things going on in terms of growth and evolution at ESA. What do you think is going to be the most noticeable difference for members?
A: The most noticeable thing is going to be the coordination of resources between NTS and our membership staff. Having everyone under one roof at the new facility supports healthy collaboration within our organization. There's a more "member-centric" mindset in response to the training needs of our membership as a whole. We want to identify ways to better serve our Chartered Chapters across the country, and also to meet the needs of individual students who want to expand their knowledge of our industry.
Q: How will the new NTS training facility complement the existing training courses that are currently offered at locations throughout the country?
A: Our chapters are the key drivers for the delivery of NTS training across the nation, and that won't change. But our new space includes a training room that's capable of comfortably hosting up to 30 students for instructor-led training events. In addition to the various class offerings, the room also will be made available to industry groups and ESA members to host events where a classroom venue is required.
Q: Is there any difference between the training that will take place at the Irving facility compared with training that takes place in other parts of the country?
A: No, our course offering will remain consistent across all training venues. What the new facility in the DFW market allows us to do is to expand our current course offering across Texas, and also into Oklahoma and Arkansas. Those are states where training opportunities exist, but to date have been underserved.
Q: Let's go beyond the new training facility and talk about the courses. What changes can we expect in the classes overall, especially for students who have taken training before?
A: We have several courses that either have been, or are being, updated: Essential Sales Training, Alarm Level 1, and Video System Technologies, just to name a few. And our Understanding Alarm Systems course will undergo an update as well as a name change, to "Understanding Electronic Security Systems."
Q: Will there be any new courses or certifications?
A: In 2012 you can expect the addition of an advanced fire alarm course, and entry into the area of preparatory courses for NICET certification. We're also considering expanding our video offering along with the potential to add courses on IP Networking.
Q: Back on the subject of the bottom line for a moment, are there ways for companies to give employees the appropriate amount of training and still keep an eye on expenses?
A: Discounts for NTS training and certification are one of the huge benefits of being an ESA member, so that's an excellent way to reduce training expenses. Beyond that, NTS offers some attractive pricing options for larger classes that can dramatically reduce the cost of employee training for those entities with a larger employee base and for those looking to expand their workforce significantly. We regularly conduct private classes, and many companies have found it cost-effective to secure training dates hosted at their facility, or when necessary in rented space to accommodate larger groups.
We're flexible in working with members on cost/benefit calculations regarding remote or onsite staff training, and providing the instructor and course materials necessary to make it a beneficial learning experience.