CEDIA Installer Boot Camp: Making the Grade

It all began with my obsession with snakes. Not the slithering, on-a-plane type; I mean the kind that pull wires through walls. What is it about hidden cables that so impresses people? As A/V buffs, we conquer the imposing web behind our racks with hardly a bored yawn from our wives or girlfriends. But throw up a pair of speakers with no telltale wires, and suddenly your friends and family think you're Einstein and Edison rolled into one.

cedia_day2_02This unquenchable thirst for in-walls and my ongoing curiosity about whole-house entertainment are what finally drove me to the Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association, known to all as CEDIA. The association's Basic Residential Technician Boot Camp is an intensive 3-day workout that amounts to geek heaven for any A/V enthusiast interested in residential systems. Its three 8-hour sessions combine classroom training with hands-on "lab" work to give installer newbies and wannabes the skills to handle real custom install jobs.

Thus I found myself, one recent morning, filing onto a Boot Camp shuttle bus bound for CEDIA headquarters in Indianapolis. For me, it would be a ticket to hidden wires and house-wide fame. For many of my fellow passengers, it would mark nothing less than the start of a new career.

At CEDIA's training facility, we were greeted by instructor Dave Pedigo, who directed us into a large, carpeted classroom with comfortable high-back office chairs (a good thing, given the hours we'd have our butts parked in them). As director of technical training, Dave works full-time with industry volunteers developing the courses and certification programs that have become CEDIA's hallmark. And there are many, covering the nuts and bolts of both installation and running an installation business. Along with the group's ongoing courses in Indianapolis and the nearly 300 classes now offered at their annual convention, "CEDIA University" visits different cities to conduct training. And if you've got install or system-design skills and seek CEDIA certification, there are 200 proctored online testing centers around the country where you can take their exams. It all amounts to the largest educational offering of any consumer electronics trade organization.

This impressive commitment is hardly new. CEDIA began back in 1989, when a handful of "trunk slammers" and shopkeepers in the emerging home theater industry needed an organization to build credibility with equipment vendors. But, according to Andy Willcox, who recently finished a term as CEDIA president and was one of the group's founding members, "we quickly realized that doing this work demands education and processes - it's not the same as running a regular retail business."