The unique skills and knowledge required to do residential installation just didn't exist elsewhere. So, install businesses had to brew their own workers, and educate themselves, in order to grow - something they've been doing successfully for 17 years now under CEDIA's aegis. And although there's a charge (the tuition for my Boot Camp course, for example, was $800), you don't need to be sponsored by an install shop or otherwise credentialed to take an entry-level class. "No one's excluded," Willcox says. "We'd rather encourage people coming in from outside the industry to take the training so we can give them the building blocks to achieve. Our goal is to put together a turnkey process for creating a career path."
As we settled into the classroom on Day 1, Dave was quickly joined by our two other instructors: Greg Hoshaw, who owns High Definition Systems, a Chicago-based install business, and Grayson Evans, who runs The Training Dept. (trainingdept.com), a company that creates video courses to help professional installers and DIYers learn the craft. Both follow the CEDIA tradition of volunteerism by periodically taking time from their own businesses to teach.
It didn't take long to see the value of three instructors. The class work is so intensive that going round-robin breaks it up for both the teachers and students, and a three-man team can attend to small groups in the lab more effectively. And I really liked the different perspectives they brought to the course. Dave and Grayson presented proven install techniques and insights from CEDIA's established syllabus and their past experience, while Greg regaled us with hard-earned wisdom and horror stories from running his own shop.
As we introduced ourselves, I noticed how many people had paid their own way to be there. At least a quarter of the 21 students were starting a dedicated install business, hoping to start one, or hoping to be hired by one. Tristan Woods, sitting next to me, had done DIY systems in his and his in-laws' homes in northern California. He holds a marketing degree, but marketing jobs are scarce where he lives, so he came to Indy with plans to strike out on his own: "My wife told me, 'You're always screwing around with our stuff - you might as well do something you like.'"
Hunter McNeil, who as my lab partner would spend hours in a 4 x 8-foot booth with me, is a college student from Wilmington, North Carolina. He'd been trying to get a job with a local install shop but hadn't yet landed a position, so he pulled together the tuition and train fare to get to Boot Camp: "The owner sends all his guys to this class, so I figured it couldn't hurt," he said. Other students included installers sent by their shops, a handful of people with computer or IT businesses who were branching into installation, and techs from equipment manufacturers.
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