Where Are They Now? ESPA Follows Technicians Finding Careers in AV
ESPA's Jeff Gardner checks in with young people who earned the ESPA Certified EST credential and pursued an AV career.
In 2010, Walker Career Center in Indianapolis reached out to us at Electronic Systems Professionals Alliance (ESPA) to see if our AV career program would fit at the high school level. Walker has a variety of CTE programs, from dental assisting to automotive repair, and everything in between. They also had an electronics program that was once very popular but lost traction.
The school combined an electronics curriculum with computer technology and wanted to provide training that would result in real-world jobs for high schoolers who were not planning to attend college. So we gave it a try, and it was the first time ESPA was adopted at the high school level. We were excited about kids getting a combination of EST skills and computer technology in the same class!
Jacob Wheatley was in that class. He knew for some time that he wanted to work in the world of technology and was also comfortable with computers. So he was in the right place at the right time. His class studied the ESPA body of knowledge and received hands-on experience with wiring and trimming out a house that was built by the school’s building trades program. So by the time he graduated (with the certification), he had already completed many of the tasks he would be assigned on the job.
Wheatley was hired immediately by Advanced Electronics, a local company that works both residential and commercial projects. His thirst for knowledge led him to night classes at Ivy Tech Community College, where he earned CompTIA A+ and Net+ certifications. These additional qualifications provided him the skills he needed to advance rapidly and take on more responsibilities.
Within a few years, he was considered a lead technician and received several wage increases. He purchased a home and a car, and often spoke with former classmates who were just getting out of college, burdened with debt, looking for their first job.
Today, Wheatley is not just a lead technician but spends much more time in the office designing and engineering work. He also programs the control systems for large sports bars and restaurants. Company owner Joe Monfort tells us, “He is one of our most valuable team members and learning new skills every day. We even hired his younger brother.”
We asked Wheatley what he thought of the way his career turned out.
“I really enjoy what I am doing … I get to work with new technologies all the time and get overtime hours pretty much every week," he says. "I love to learn new skills, and my goal is to transition into doing design and programming full-time. I feel like I am in a very good spot at age 25, and have a great career ahead of me.”
Walker Career Center continues to offer the ESPA training and certification, along with CompTIA credentials, and their program recently won an Award of Excellence from the Indiana Department of Education.
Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a high school career center in every town preparing young people to come into our industry with the right skills to get right to work in the field? If you know of a program or school in your community that might welcome AV career training, let us know! Email email@example.com.
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Jeff Gardner, CTS, ESC-D, is executive director of the Electronic Systems Professional Alliance (ESPA). Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Jeff at JGardner@espa.org
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