Austin TX EdTech Startup Launches Training for the Skilled Trades

Career Climbers / 7th September 2021

Recent reporting shows that workers are increasingly leaving low paying and unsatisfying jobs in search of better opportunities. One of the fields likely to benefit from an increase in job candidates seeking meaningful, well-paying work is skilled trades. These are traditionally considered blue-collar jobs, but the increasingly technical nature of the work requires skills that go beyond the mechanical skills typically associated with shop class or manufacturing settings. For instance, commercial fire alarm technicians are not only required to have a working knowledge of fire sprinkler plumbing and HVAC operation but also need to be proficient in electrical wiring, electronics troubleshooting and the programming of complex fire systems.

Like tech jobs everywhere, fire alarm technician wages have been on the rise. Experienced techs can take home annual pay that exceeds $100,000. New hires with just a high school education tend to start at $15 to $20 per hour and see regular raises as their qualifications increase. In addition to solid pay, fire alarm technicians get to work with a sense of purpose, knowing that the work they do saves lives.

One of the biggest hiring challenges has been that employers lack the time and experience to train green employees. As a result, companies in the skilled trades primarily hire experienced technicians. A quick search for fire alarm technician postings on Indeed shows numerous positions categorized as “Entry level” that require a state license and at least one year of experience.

On the other side of the equation, there’s not a good way for interested job seekers to gain industry knowledge prior to working in the industry. Without access to training, high paying skilled jobs are out of reach for many. This chicken and egg problem is exacerbating the labor shortage that plagues the skilled trades.

There are a few training providers offering classes for the fire alarm industry, but most of the classes are focused on teaching students how to pass a test to get a license. The lack of practical skill training is frustrating for potential technicians and hiring managers alike. David Sciarrino managed a large staff of technicians at Siemens. Sciarrino notes “I’ve seen too many cases where installers and service techs have been taught code compliance, but lack the practical and hands-on skills to perform their jobs effectively in the field.” Companies that do teach practical skills tend to offer courses that are brief, in-person and cost thousands of dollars when accounting for travel and downtime. The few online courses that touch on practical skills are similarly brief and rely on text-heavy PowerPoint slides.

To address the need for online training of practical trade skills, Field Sim recently launched its first product line, a catalogue of fire alarm training courses called FireAlarm.Training (https://firealarm.training). Their courses feature experienced instructors delivering training through pre-recorded 4K videos, many of which were filmed at real job sites. With an emphasis on mobile-first, the training is easily accessible by busy technicians out in the field. The classes are especially valuable for new technicians and anyone interested in joining the industry.

Employers report that it regularly takes three to six months before a new technician has learned enough to add value on a job site. Ben Adams, Field Sim president, hopes that online courses focused on practical skills can help hiring managers ramp up their new hires in as little as two weeks.

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