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11 min read

SBA 306: What's New at SBA for 2022

By Phil Zito on Jan 10, 2022 6:00:00 AM

Topics: Podcasts

In this episode we discuss what we are working on in 2022 here at Smart Buildings Academy.

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Phil Zito 0:00
This is the smart buildings Academy podcast with Phil Zito episode 306. Hey folks, Phil Zito here and welcome to smart buildings Academy Podcast, episode 306. And in this podcast, I'm going to be just kind of giving you all an update on what is going on in smart buildings Academy. Why you haven't seen a podcast or heard a podcast episode in a while, and what you can expect in 2022. So just so you all know, I am moving from Wisconsin to Arizona, actually moving to Prescott, Arizona, and I'll be moving. Well, if you're listening to this today, I'll be moving on Thursday, so in a couple days, so naturally have to pack up all of the AV gear and everything. And that kind of just puts a damper on production of podcasts, blogs, videos, etc. So that's why you haven't heard from us in a while. It's been a little bit crazy getting all of this done over the winter break, but it's getting done. You know, I'm really looking forward to being outdoors more out in the sun and less in the frozen tundra of Wisconsin. Now, what can you look forward to in 2022. So we've got a lot of changes we, as of today, we are now up to seven employees, and we will soon be up to eight employees next week. So we're growing, and we're gonna continue to grow, we're going to be hiring some more instructors. And we are starting to build out our workforce development program, of which we've got the first cohort starting in very early February. Now this is really exciting to me, because, you know, I look at what our competitors are doing, I look at what the trade schools are doing. And they're all focused still on the traditional model of a multi year apprenticeship. Some of them may be compressed down to an 18 month apprenticeship. But what we're looking to do is an intensive 10 to 12 week program with OJT that delivers trained, employable technical talent in less than three and a half months. And that's pretty. How do I put it, it's pretty ambitious, I'm a little nervous to be totally transparent. As you know, here at smart buildings Academy, we've always kind of stretched the envelope as far as continuing education for the skilled trades, I think we were pretty much that I'm aware of the first one to embrace fully online asynchronous training. And now 9000 plus students later, we've gotten pretty good at it. And now, as a strategic initiative, we're starting to shift our focus in our course development to developing net new talent. I think there's like 90,000 job openings for building automation at any given time. And that's just going to continue to churn. I've been pretty straightforward of my thoughts of the economy in the market. And as you see minimum wage continue to increase, you are going to see a lot of service jobs disappear. There is an equilibrium point at which you charge so much for an employee that it makes financial sense to replace it with automation. I'm not going to get into the politics of that, whether that's good or bad. That, you know, is way out of the scope of this podcast. But I will tell you that the service industries are in my opinion going to be wrecked by automation. And what that means is that those service and hospitality industries are going to need to upskill and I will tell you having

Phil Zito 4:11
our second employee coming from the service industry, the rental car industry, she's been an amazing employee, great team member and really great work ethic and sharpest tack. And I will tell you that I would love to create a rapid onboarding program that can take people and introduce them into the skilled trades and that's what we're looking to do. Looking to take people who maybe have some baseline technical aptitude, maybe they don't, and we're looking to train and develop them and place them with companies in rapid fashion. Our initial cohort in the spring is going to be focused on training someone to be able to do installation and point to point checkout in less than 10 to 12 weeks ish. second cohort across the summer will target the exact same area. And our third cohort, which will be in the fall, slash late summer, will actually start to focus in on training someone. And this is where it gets really ambitious, over, I believe, a 26 week window, we're going to train someone to do installation, programming, design, and troubleshooting. So basically, in little over six months, we're going to take someone with the accompanying OJ T, and teach them how to install controls, wire up field buses, commissioned supervisory devices, set up graphics, create design, submittals for their projects, right, basic programs for you know, air cooled chillers, rooftop units, Vav boxes, download and upload those programs, and do troubleshooting of control systems. Now, I know that super ambitious, but I believe it's doable. And once we do that, I would love to compress that down to a five month window. If I can get all those skills within five months, maybe even four. I know that's kind of stretching it. But you know, got to push the envelope. And once we've got that done, then we're going to look at the ladder end of 2022. To go and start looking at Focus development tracks for other roles, that's kind of going to be an omnibus role. But we can really get kind of focused in on programmers technicians, and kind of expand that focus on them, but also keeping it in that like sub six month training window. Now, this is really cool, because we've already created all the curriculum, you know, we're not dependent. And I think this is where we're going to be different. And I'm my team would probably kill me for being so transparent. But my goal is to go and actually find instructors and like find the cream of the crop instructors, I want to get to the point where we're paying six figure salaries to instructors, I want us to be going and finding like the best of the best of the best is there's kind of two schools of thoughts when it comes to instructors, you can pay people pretty low wages, which I'm not going to get into companies that do that. But there are a fair few out there, especially in the educational sector that will pay the bare minimum and they'll look for maybe a retiree, and they'll pay them that I want to find someone who's currently active in the field who can teach and really pay them top dollar so that we can get the best of the best in there. And I feel like that is going to be one of our differentiators, because these people are going to be facilitators to the training process. But also on top of that, what I want us to really focus in on is this compressed timeframe. I am I've just seen it, I've seen so many people go through our programs in three months and go from basically no knowledge of bas to being programmers and technicians. And we've got, like, if you go and you look us up on LinkedIn, you'll see testimonials. If you go to our website, you'll see testimonials and we can provide testimonials. But I feel are well rather I know that that is something no other training organization can really hang their hat on. Yeah, maybe they've got one or two, but we've got 1000s. And so that is really what I'm looking forward to.

Phil Zito 8:29
There's been a lot of debate going on in the industry right now whether we have to have a certification whether we have to unionize, whether we have to have a structured multi year apprenticeship. I personally just don't think that works for our space. And this is probably going to get me flamed, probably going to get people kind of upset with me. But at its core building automation is not terribly complicated. You know, we've got a supervisory device that communicates system field controllers, and these field controllers essentially process inputs into control loops that drive outputs. And once you learn how to interpret a sequence, and once you learn some basic design methodologies for programming and some basic design methodologies for electrical install, not methodology, sorry, design patterns. Once you learn those basic patterns, then you can pretty rapidly teach this stuff. And I feel like we as an industry are stuck in a kind of 1930s to 1950s educational paradigm of multi year slow learning, following people carrying tools around doing your time going through multi year program methodology that just is not practical. You look at the military of which I am a veteran and you see how rapidly They can upskill and train people. And I'm like, Okay, why can't we do that you look at coding boot camps in the computer industry, and they rapidly train and develop people. And I'm like, Okay, why can't we do that. And so my paradigm has shifted in that we can rapidly train people through a combination of a rapid prototyping modality or not modality, a rapid prototyping model. So when we look at our instructional design model, we follow a rapid model, which is often we solve the course before it's even created. We take feedback as we go through the course. And we take that feedback, and we feed it back into the course. And we rapidly take a prototype, move it into beta, and then move it or move it in the alpha and then beta, and then out into the market. And we do this, you know, creating full blown courses in three months. And I used to sit there and I thought that was not such a big deal until we started to deal with some larger organizations. And they would tell us, things like, you know, it can take our learning group three years to create a course. And, you know, you don't know what you don't know, right? Because I come out of the field as a technician doing some sales, doing some integration, program management, and then I move into creating a training business. And, you know, I didn't realize that it was not the norm to just say, Okay, well, people don't know how to install controls. Let's create a course on installing controls. Let's think through what are the top things I remember people messing up on the job site? Oh, it was this it was that? Okay, let's add it to a course. Well, what do they need to know, in order to not mess those things up? Oh, well, let's add that to a course. Next thing, you know, you've got an install and configuration course. And there you go, it only takes a couple months to create. And that's what I really, as I look into 2022, that's going to be our focus, we're going to shift that same methodology, but to workforce development. And then as I look beyond 2022, we start to look at other technology stacks. There's a reason we rebranded from building automation monthly to smart buildings Academy. It's because I'm a firm believer that with the proper subject matter experts, we can go and take the same methodology of building automation training. And we can apply it to the lighting industry, the audio visual industry, the access control industry, and so that's where you're going to see us, depending on how how financials go,

Phil Zito 12:37
maybe towards the end of this year, maybe towards the beginning of next year, but that's where we're really, you're gonna see us shifting our focus there. Additionally, some additional areas I'm starting to really entertain is things like virtual reality and augmented reality. So I was a naysayer to virtual reality. For the longest time, I thought it was kind of foolish, but then I was messing around on my kids brand new Oculus quest to whatever the thing's called. And while it makes me nauseous to even look at that thing, and makes me sick to my stomach to put it on for more than a couple minutes, apparently, it doesn't affect other people that way. And I will say that it can really hyper stimulate or simulate some environments. And so that's another space I want us to look into, is how can we potentially create a virtual environment for the building automation space? You know, I used to be someone who would keep all these ideas kind of behind a firewall and wouldn't share them. But what I've realized is a lot of companies really suck at execution. They're terrible at execution. We're not terrible at execution. We're amazing at execution, I would say it's one of our strengths. As an organization, we're very fast, very nimble, we execute and we produce really good quality deliverables as far as our training content. So I don't mind putting this out there. Because I know we're going to out execute whoever comes up against us. I look at marketing, and what are we going to do in that space? And that's a space that I'm not 100% Clear on yet. I do know, we're going to start moving our podcasts to YouTube lives. So basically, we're going to do YouTube Live probably three times a week, that will then turn into a podcast, which will turn into a blog post. You know, YouTube's the second largest search engines, so definitely want to take advantage of that. Additionally, I think we will get into more webinars, probably twice a month webinars, I think that will be really beneficial. I think that will really help us grow. Additionally, I want to really focus in on an area we haven't focused in on is our ability to be a consultative advisor, you know, whether through happenstance, whether through strategic planning or whatever, I've managed to get a lot of really experienced folks on our team. And I, myself have a diversity of experience that you really don't find very often in this industry. And I find it uncomfortable to talk about myself in that way. But the reality is, you know, we get how to build successful building automation businesses, and how to build successful small businesses. I mean, shoot our profit margin, if I told you it is crazy high. And the reason behind that is just how efficient we are, how good we are at doing what we do, and how effective it is. Now, that being said, how can we take this same experience and bring it to other companies so that they can leverage us? You know, I've seen time and time again, whenever I'm used in a consultative basis, or whatever my team members are used in a consultative basis, the end result? Is the customer going, Oh, my goodness, how can I pay you to teach me what you just told me? And so how do we package that into a consultative solution that helps companies identify their strategic pillars, right, their talent management, their operational processes, their sales processes and their strategic management? How do we balance that out and turn that into a service that is repeatable, but also scalable? Because so much consulting is very human dependent? How can we process and procedure eyes this so that it's less human dependent? That's something I'd like to see us focus in on but probably as a 2023 initiative. Hey, I hope you all have appreciated this transparency, this openness of business strategy. And, yeah, to those of you who were against I hope to see you on the battlefield of business and to put you out of business. To those of you who are customers, I look forward to serving you and I look forward to giving you through our team and through myself the best training experience you've ever had. Hope y'all have an awesome rest of 2022 and next time I talk to you, I'll be coming to you from Arizona. Thanks a ton. I look forward to seeing y'all in the next podcast.

Phil Zito

Written by Phil Zito

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