For the custom electronics industry to maintain its same rate of growth, integration companies will need to hire 1,500 new technicians every year. It’s a daunting statistic that shows exactly how real the labor shortage is for the industry. The demand for new technicians has continued to grow as the pandemic actually helped the market with more people working form home and stuck at home seeking out entertainment options.
But for many years now, the number of available technicians has been stagnant. Integrators often end up “poaching” technicians from other companies with the lure of improved compensation and better company culture. Unfortunately, those “hired guns” can often bring with them bad habits, and they are susceptible to being “poached” by another firm.
The veteran team at PrepTech is aiming to end that vicious cycle. Industry icons Paul Starkey, Helen Heneveld and Mark Weisenberg have united to form PrepTech, a company dedicated to bringing in fresh “new blood” to the industry at the technician level. They discuss details about the new endeavor in a chat with CE Pro editor-in-chief Jason Knott on this week’s episode of the CE Pro Podcast.
“Everybody is competing for the same limited resources,” says Starkey, who among other career highlights was the president of Elan Home Control and co-founder of VITAL, the industry’s leading consultancy. “Demand is way up and integrators need to expand, but they need more manpower and more bandwidth. This has been a problem for a number of years, long before the pandemic, but the industry has always found it difficult to expand the workforce. ‘Poaching’ does not expand the pie. It just escalates wages and salaries, increasing the operating costs of integration companies.”
Heneveld notes, “I saw this labor crisis coming 15 years ago when I first started Bedrock Learning. It’s not a situation anymore about lack of available educational materials, it’s a matter of finding new people to be educated.”
Technical trade schools are not interested in churning out job candidates for CE pros, because they claim that the industry “is not big enough,” says Weisenberg. PrepTech identifies new potential job candidates working with organizations like the Job Corps, then conducts a 12-minute cognitive evaluation with those individuals.
“Ninety percent of candidates don’t pass that cognitive evaluation,” admits Weisenberg.
Only after a potential candidate has passed that stringent evaluation is he or she enrolled in a 60-hour self-paced remote technical training course based on curriculum from Bedrock Learning, Heneveld’s longtime training organization. The training includes not just technical skills, but 10 hours of soft skills training.
From there, graduates are specifically matched with integration companies, who pay an annual fee to have access to all the graduates. PrepTech is focused solely on the Dallas market initially but will be expanding to major metro markets all across the U.S. The first class just graduated at the end of February.
“We do all the heavy lifting,” says Weisenberg.
Hear Knott’s entire 45-minute conversation with the three principals of PrepTech, who outlined exactly how the program works and how integrators can get involved, by watching or downloading the podcast above. Find past episodes of the CE Pro Podcast by subscribing to the CE Pro YouTube channel or our Apple and Spotify podcast feeds.