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Training the Workforce for Tomorrow

Safety Training
Published On
Sep 16, 2021

What are your plans for training your workforce? You probably just answered that you cannot find anyone to even fill out a job application, so training plans are not something you are worried about!

But as demand grows for people with specialized fire alarm system technical skillsets, and certifications for these roles increase, talent must simultaneously be trained and upskilled to fulfill these needs. Installing fire alarm systems is no longer just pulling wire, placing it on a terminal and turning a screw. Every system on the market today requires some form of computer programming. That means a more technically competent worker who understands computer system operation and the basics of programming is needed on your staff if you plan to increase your business in this vertical market.

But let’s review the other issue you are dealing with—no one is applying for your open positions.

Several years ago, I was presenting at a conference and one of the company owners at the presentation spoke to me during the lunch about his approach to hiring more technically savvy workers in a similar economy as we are experiencing now. He explained the changes he made to looking for job applicants and how and where he advertised for team members so he could establish a more technically competent team.

How he changed everything was deceptively simple. First, he made the advertisement more interesting than just asking for a technician. He described the challenges the new hire would need to deal with and showed the growth potential for the position. Secondly, he changed where he advertised to newspapers, association newsletters and magazines that served the computer programmer market. When I asked whether it was working, he exclaimed the results were better than he had dreamed of! We are presently in a time where, supposedly, there are workers sitting on the sidelines because they have had a year or more to think about what they were doing and what they want to do now that the COVID-19 crisis is starting to abate. This is an opportunity for you.

I cannot overstate the importance of understanding the concepts needed to perform fire alarm system installations efficiently and in compliance with the applicable codes. Items such as detector application, notification appliance locations to ensure intelligibility and audibility, programming the fire alarm control unit (FACU), and knowing the industry best practices all come together for a properly designed and installed a fire alarm system. These topics can appear obvious on the surface, but knowing these basics is fundamental to all technicians. This is because technology is driving the upskilling for the workforce of tomorrow.

Many rely on the “on-the-job training experience” to be sufficient for new hires. Think about your training (which no doubt followed this path) and how long it took to truly understand how to perform your job efficiently and competently. If this is how you plan to train your new hires, and that is what you state in the job posting, then you will likely not attract the technically competent people you need. If you profess that working in our business is easy and not challenging, again the wrong people (if any) will be applying for the position. There are also a lot of myths about working in our profession, and you will need to address and dispel these myths in the job description. Some of these include the high degree of mechanical ability, basic electrical knowledge and limited amount of education needed, among others.

If you explain the technical principles of fire alarm systems in a logical order, people reading your job offer will understand that they will be working on challenging projects. No matter how mundane a particular project may seem, a clear understanding of the fundamentals is necessary. If you explain how the training for all applicants will include clear, goal-oriented and interesting topics that take years off the painful “learning curve”
that comes with trial and error and on-the-job training, you will get the applicants who want to work for you. If you show the work you perform has the potential to save lives, then the passion for the job will become apparent.

Making sure that your company is seen as the premier company in the field begins at this stage.

Becoming known as the company that has an interest in developing their employee talent base through continuous education will help to ensure that job applicants will want to work for you and not someone else. And, of course, these talented people are those who you want to work with your team.

I have heard it said, “If one intends to live and work in a country, they had better speak the language.” Knowing the fundamentals of the fire alarm system design and installation business is speaking the language of the profession.

About the Author

Wayne D. Moore

Fire/Life Safety Columnist

Wayne D. Moore, a licensed fire protection engineer, frequent speaker, writer and expert in the life safety field, has been a principal member and chair of NFPA 72, Chapter 24, as well as a former principal member of NFPA 909 and NFPA 914. He is the...

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