Falls Church, Va. — Results from what may be the first-ever survey of electronics systems technicians (ESTs) has been released by the Electronic Systems Professional Alliance (ESPA).
The professional-based organization, here, solicited the views of more than 450 ESTs last month on their careers and training. Respondents spanned a wide variety of fields, including audio, video, networking, IT, cable, satellite, lighting, home control, alarm and telecom.
The survey showed that technicians often have very long careers in the electronics industry. More than half of the respondents (58 percent) had been in electronics for more than 10 years, with another 18 percent working within the industry from five to nine years. The respondent pool was split 64/36 in terms of technicians focused primarily on residential projects vs. commercial projects.
“This survey reached out to experienced technicians to tell us how they were trained and how employers should help the next wave of employees,” said Grant Mydland, executive director of ESPA.
The survey showed that ESTs are a well-educated group. Some 87 percent of respondents had completed some college coursework, with more than a third (35 percent) of all respondents having obtained a bachelors, masters or doctorate degree. In addition, 92 percent had participated in some training or certification related to their current jobs, Mydland said.
Just more than half, 51 percent, of respondents started out in the field because they had a personal interest in electronics. ESPA believes these senior-level technicians also had their personal interests nurtured by the dot-com boom, greater awareness of NASA's moon mission era, and electronics courses that used to be more widely available but have been abandoned in many schools in the last decade.
Despite the soft economy, the job market for ESTs has remained fairly stable: 39 percent of respondents said their companies have the same number of technicians as a year ago, 28 percent said they have more technicians, and 26 percent said they have fewer technicians.
Job satisfaction remains high among ESTs. Most technicians (83 percent) claimed to be “somewhat or very satisfied” with their current position, with training opportunities cited by 69 percent of the respondents as somewhat or very important to their job satisfaction.
Indeed, some 62 percent of respondents said they think low-voltage certification/licensing should be required for their work, a requirement of only 30 percent of employers and jurisdictions, ESPA said.
Preferred training programs included those by CEDIA, CompTIA or sponsored by manufacturers, respondents indicated. More than half of the respondents (54 percent) said they plan on pursuing more EST training or certifications in the next year, while 7 percent said they already had sufficient training for their jobs. The survey also noted that less than half (46 percent) of the respondents said their companies reward them with pay or title advancement for training or certifications.
One of ESPA’s key objectives is to promote low-voltage courses in high school and college settings to give inquisitive and mechanically aspiring students more opportunities to pursue courses that are critical to 21st century jobs, the group said. “Only 2 percent of the respondents said a teacher or course in school was their primary motivator for getting involved in the industry,” noted Mydland. “That low number indicates why America is falling farther behind our competitors.”
Respondents said they would like to see more EST classes included in high schools, colleges and career-training centers to help prepare the next generation of technicians, as well as apprenticeships for ESTs and more trade association-based training programs.