The following is an independent editorial opinion by Bob Langlois, a guest blogger on the FiberPlex Technologies blog.
I once ran across a crew from a huge, very well-known organization that was finishing up a job. The client showed up early to turn on the system and found out quickly that the crew had no idea how to turn anything on or even knew what a FOH desk actually did.
In the last few years there is an alarming trend in the audio install world in that companies purposefully hire unskilled labor, throw them in a truck, give vague instructions on which wire goes where and expect the job to go correctly. Labor is paid next to nothing. The team leader is usually last year’s unskilled labor who barely knows more than the new guys. It is now so common that we have to constantly hire more unskilled labor to fix what the first round of unskilled labor screwed up. This hurts the reputation and the future of our industry.
We should be, and some of us still are, “American Craftsmen” who are indeed passionate about what we do. We are proud to be artisans who design loudspeaker systems; we build them by hand, install them with pride, program and commission them and then stand behind them as a proud artist might do with his latest work of art.
But I can’t help but wonder if we are the last of a generation.
The fix is to return to the practice of interns and apprenticeships, to share the knowledge we have and to pass it on to those with the same heart and passion as we once had back in the day. We need to get back to where we seek innovation and new creative ways to design and implement new systems and ideas. This requires new, young blood combined with age and experience.
Just like the old time master masons, plumbers and carpenters who are also now becoming a rare breed, we, too, need to train up the next generation. Let’s not get swallowed up by bean counters in an office counting hours worked against hours on the job. While that might be important, it should not be the total focus and goal of a project. When you hire a craftsman to do a job, you hire him because he is the best at what he does.
That great giant sucking sound you hear is all the life being sucked out of the future of our industry. Are we an industry taken over by a bid system that no longer works for the end user? There are so called “designers” more worried about three letters after their name than they are about the quality of the work they do. It seems even government regulations are nothing more than government extortion and do little or nothing except line the pockets of the regulators who create them.
It is our good fortune that we are the generation that stands on the shoulders of the giants who created this trade. It is our duty and obligation to carry on the tradition of mentorship and make sure that there are young people who will do the same when their time comes. They must not only be properly trained, but have that respect for the generation before them that made their industry possible. What happens when we are gone? Do we leave them to a revolving door of incompetence and slave business practices?
We were apprentices once, interns hungry for knowledge encouraged by those we considered our mentors. It kept us going with hope for our future. I still meet with one or two hopeful young engineers but, unfortunately, they are now few and far between. When I do find young, passionate and talented audio engineers, I want to hang out with them and encourage them to pursue excellence and to be the best they can be. I know, however, that the opportunities are now so rare that I am afraid for their future as creative, independent engineers.
We, as an industry, collectively let this happen. We are now reaping what we’ve sown out of fear of the bottom line. There is absolutely no reason not to be profitable with this design build model. In fact, it has proven time and time again that design build is not only better quality, but it is faster and cheaper and has very little red tape to tie it down. It allows for a better end user experience and much better bang for the buck. We all want to make a profit. That is why we are in business. We simply should not make money the first priority over the reputation attached to what it is we have produced. The money will always come to those who show passion and excellence in the work that they do.
The long-term health of our industry is essential not just for the short term profits. Let’s get back to a performance audio industry. Let’s also think about the next generation and how to carry it on into the future.