Learning From Certification

Differentiating the new, integrated security market

With the universal migration toward IP-based security systems and the increased demand for higher-level systems integration, the security industry is seeing a major shift in the roles of its professionals. This is having a big impact on skill requirements within the industry. We recently spoke with Greg Willmarth, the director of learning & performance for Milestone Systems, to discuss how these market advancements are impacting the company’s approach to learning, certification and on-the-job performance assurance.

Q. The security industry is in the middle of a transformation. As a technology provider, how is the shift in core knowledge needs impacting your training efforts? A. Well, there is a big shift happening, and like many manufacturers and technology developers in this industry, we’re constantly working to provide our customers with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed. Early in 2016, we began rolling out a completely new training and certification program, with the goal of increasing the level of on-the-job expertise in designing and implementing solutions.

As more integrators enter the IP video market, often with limited IT experience, we see a growing need to help ensure that they have the skills to successfully perform in the field. After all, a certification is a promise to customers that the certified individual has the necessary level of proven expertise for successful system design, installation and configuration. Our reputation, as well as the integrator’s, is on the line. To best deliver on this promise, we began creating new training tools from the ground up in three different areas: eLearning modules, instructor-led workshops, and certification assessments. We focused on elevating the on-the-job performance of our partners, as well as globally growing the number of people with proven expertise in the design and implementation of IP VMS solutions.

Q. You mention global partners, who are independent integrators and installers; how do you reach them? A. To jump-start channel expertise with our products, especially our business-ready solutions, we began developing an extensive eLearning program. The goal of these short, on-demand, self-paced modules is to provide learners with a basic level of knowledge and skill in designing, installing, configuring, or using our products. With the goal to support job performance, each module focuses on the key tasks and steps that need to be completed. As opposed to passive training videos, these interactive eLearning modules make it easy to navigate to the exact job task desired and get hands-on practice completing the steps through interactive simulations.We offer an ever-increasing number of eLearning courses for integrators and reseller partners, as well as end-user customers.

Q. How is this shift affecting classroom courses? A. With the same goal, we have redesigned our instructor-led classes to better prepare learners to perform on the job. First, we worked to clearly understand what knowledge and skills are truly necessary, so we performed a detailed job competency analysis. We identified exactly which competencies are required to successfully design, install, and configure video surveillance solutions from moderate to high complexity. We then looked at who performed these different tasks in the field, and quickly realized that the people responsible for designing the solution were often different from those who installed and configured the system on site. It became apparent that we needed separate classes for design and technical installation to better serve the various needs of these different audiences.

Finally, we wanted to make the classes even more hands-on than our previous training. We created new learning experiences that are more “learning-while-doing” practical workshops than traditionally structured “presentation-of-information” classes. In the technical workshops, learners practice going through the tasks and steps required to perform an actual installation based on realistic customer scenarios and specifications. To help bridge the learning from the classroom to the field, learners follow detailed job aids that walk them through each step of the installation. After the workshop, they can use the job aids in the field during live installations.

Q. You speak about training to specifically increase on-the-job performance; how does this impact certification programs? A. We need to make sure that our certifications represent real value to our customers and the market, and we take this very seriously. We engaged an outside expert to help redesign our certification strategy to make our assessments similar to those in the IT industry, with better measures of on-the-job performance ability.

The first step was to separate our certification assessments from our training classes. After all, training and certification are two different things. Training is where knowledge and skills are developed. Certifications are proof that an individual has achieved the required levels of knowledge and skill. We eliminated the certification requirement of attending training, stopped administering the certification assessment as part of our workshops, and moved our certification assessments online. At the same time, we significantly improved the quality of the assessments. We increased the number of questions, added simulation and scenario question types, and implemented question randomization and the use of question pools.

As a result, our new certification assessments are more challenging, so achieving certification is truly an achievement. Many people need to take the assessments several times before passing, even after taking one of our workshops. Other people, who have yet to gain the needed expertise, simply do not pass, which is appropriate.

This article originally appeared in the March 2017 issue of Security Today.

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