Installation Technician Mitch Carlson didn’t quite know what to expect when flying into Fairfax, Va., to participate in InfoComm’s Certified Technology Specialist Job Task Analysis (CTS JTA).
It was only a two-night stay at the end of March. He figured he’d be around a group of total strangers, talking about issues that “only kind of concern me.”
Carlson, who’s been with AVI Systems for the past three years, said since passing the exam, he uses about half of what he was tested on. Part of his traveling to Fairfax was to put the exam under a microscope with others in the AV industry to determine what’s relevant and what’s not.
“Without giving all the details, the group collectively discussed what is currently on the CTS exam and what some of that should be replaced with,” Carlson said.
Professionals from all over the world flew in to be a part of the process, and they all brought a different perspective to the table. AV veterans with over 30 years of experience contributed to the JTA, as well as professionals like Carlson who are more toward the beginning of their careers.
“This industry knows such a broad spectrum of information and is ever-changing, so there was much deliberation on some topics,” he said. “Opinions came from company owners, technicians, designers, project managers, event staff, and vendors.”
Part of inviting people from varying backgrounds and levels of experience helps bring multiple perspectives to the exam, which is meant for somebody who’s been in the industry for about six months.
This plays an important role in the process too because it helps balance the exam, said Adrienne Knick, director of certification with InfoComm International.
A person who’s been in the industry their entire life isn’t going to have the same mindset as somebody who’s just starting out, she said. This process is a way for the experts to share their experience with those who are at the beginning of their careers, while looking at the exam from the newcomer’s point of view.
“What Mitch was doing here was actually really important not only for InfoComm but for the entire AV industry,” Knick said.
Forming the Job Task Analysis (JTA)
Every five years InfoComm brings together a representative group of certification holders to conduct the JTA in part to meet accreditation requirements. The CTS program has three certifications: CTS, CTS-D (for design), and CTS-I (for installation).
Each certification is accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) under the International Organization of Standardization (ISO) and International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) 17024:2012 standard.
The CTS certification is what AV professionals start with, so naturally, it was first up on the agenda for those participating in the JTA.
“Part of maintaining accreditation is making sure that the certification you’re providing maintains its relevance and usefulness to your stakeholders,” Knick said. “It all starts with the Job Task Analysis.”
She said individuals from all over the world who represent InfoComm’s CTS population are brought in. Professionals are chosen based on many factors, including industry, experience, geographic location, and years certified. Having a diverse mix of professionals ensures that input is reflective of the population.
The group works with a psychometrician – an expert in the science of assessment and testing – over the allotted two days to figure out what the industry really needs, starting with the current outline of the exam.
“We want the certification to reflect the work that’s actually being done." - Adrienne Knick, director of certification with InfoComm International
These AV professionals discuss a range of topics, including their day-to-day work and what’s being tested on. That way, they can compare their work with the material to identify what might not be needed on the exam, while also filling in the gaps.
“We want the certification to reflect the work that’s actually being done,” Knick said.
They can make edits, pen in terms and scribble out what’s out of date. By the end of it, they’ve reached something of a milestone in the process.
“At the end of the two days, we have a draft of the next exam outline for the CTS,” she said, explaining that they have domains with tasks outlined.
With each task, the JTA takes it a step further, she said. They explain the “knowledge and skills required” to be successful. “And that’s what guides our item writers when they write the exam questions for the CTS,” she said.
How CTS Holders Can Help InfoComm
After all input is gathered, Knick works with the psychometrician to develop an online survey that will go out to InfoComm’s entire CTS holder population. The survey is based on the final draft of the outline that the JTA group created. For this go-around, the survey has been sent to CTS holders and they have until May 31 to weigh in. If you’re CTS holder and haven’t received it, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
CTS holders can provide feedback and comments through the survey, and afterward, Knick said they’ll blend the outline and the public’s comments. The end result will be “the most representative outline for the CTS exam possible,” she said.
“It’s a great opportunity for them to bring their passion for their work to the certification program and make it better for all of their peers across the globe,” she said. “What they’re doing in that room is so important, because the certification program literally cannot function without the work they do.”
During this short time, AV professionals from the U.S., Australia, Asia and Europe come together to help better the industry. And once the process is complete, the program’s impact will be even more widespread and comprehensive.
Carlson, with AVI Systems, said, “Hopefully, our modifications to what the CTS exam covers will allow for more clarity of what a CTS holder should be, as well as hold the bar up to continue to keep standards high.”
"The exposure to many different facets of the AV industry was important because it helps to understand the bigger picture.” - Mitch Carlson, installation technician
He explained that coming together with others from different countries helped refine what’s being said in the exam. “Words matter,” he said, adding that this process challenges the AV industry to keep an open mind and take a second look at what’s being taught.
"The exposure to many different facets of the AV industry was important because it helps to understand the bigger picture,” he said. “There are important ideas and messages out there that companies like AVI aid in getting to the masses. It’s pretty fantastic, really.”
CTS-D and CTS-I holders interested in participating in the JTA process will get their chance in July. Anyone who would like to participate can indicate their interest by filling out a short questionnaire on the InfoComm website.
InfoComm’s CTS program has been running for over 30 years, and it’s seen as one of the leading professional credentials in the industry. The JTA is a vital process to the improvement of the CTS program, as well as the AV industry worldwide.
“They’re getting a professional certification that has been rigorously developed with the applicability to the industry in mind,” Knick said of CTS holders. “It’s a quality exam, it’s relevant to the work they do, and it will continue to remain the standard in the AV industry.”