Education is a hot topic around the world in every industry. As such, it is also big business and the start of each year is marked with new intakes in universities, colleges and training institutes of multiple sizes and reputations that range from excellent to a terrible waste of money. The security and facilities industries are no different and there are many opportunities for training and education.
Yet, while there seems to be many opportunities to improve one’s skills in these industries, the market still complains about a lack of skills, especially from graduates of formal training institutes that only offer generic training. The result is an education system that is too generic to add real value, paired with a business world that is too nervous to spend money on product-specific training in fear of their staff leaving after gaining new skills – with the result that everyone loses.
Neil Cameron, general manager: systems and service Africa at Johnson Controls, says generic training means that while someone may be trained in the general technology of, for example, air conditioners, or CCTV cameras and so forth, they only know enough to do the basics.
“They will be competent at installation and keeping the systems running, “Cameron explains, “but they are not aware of product-specific features and functions that could add tremendous value to the buyer. The result is a working solution, but many of its capabilities remain unused and customers wonder what they are paying for because their expensive equipment does exactly the same as a cheaper alternative.”
The alternative is that companies purchase equipment that has advanced functions far beyond the real requirements of the business. They may have the latest technology and best brand names installed, but, if their technicians had received training on the particular brand, they would know that a cheaper alternative would have satisfied their requirements – or they would be able to access the added value already built into the product and obtained much more than expected in terms of the value of the product.
Skills cost money, but add value
As technology improves and products become more sophisticated, the need for training becomes all the more important. Technicians that understand the products they are working with and are regularly updated in terms of new features and software upgrades, are able to get the most out of their products for a longer period of time.
“Spending money on focused skills development is not a loss, but a way in which companies can extract maximum value from their training and technology investments,” adds Cameron. “For the service provider that provides these technical and installation services to a variety of customers, investments in training lead to satisfied customers who are able to realise the value of their technical investments for a longer time. And a happy customer means repeat business.”
He adds that with the right skills, service providers (whether internal or external) will be able to meet their service-level agreements (SLAs) more easily, preventing a case of sudden and unexpected maintenance issues because the technology has not been installed and configured optimally. In addition, knowing what you are doing means the product is managed correctly and its useful working life can also be maximised.
He adds that Johnson Controls requires its integration partners in its BMS and security fields to undergo regular training and certification to ensure they can deliver value to customers. “If you purchase a high-end solution, you want maximum value and performance for years to come, not only a year or two.”
Additionally, he says all partners are expected to deliver a good level of service to their end-user customers if they want to remain certified.
“Unfortunately, many service providers and technicians will claim to be experts in their field without the certifications to back them up,” he continues, “and many companies will hire them because they appear to be a cost-effective option. The only way to ensure your service providers are up to scratch is to check they are certified in the products you require, and that these certifications are up to date. This may seem like an onerous task, but it is a task that will deliver significant returns over time.”
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