While travelling in Indonesia late last year I had the opportunity to meet with one of our SI Alliance Partners. We discussed many topics when we met, but one thing that stood out is something he said to me about training and certification:
“My employees are all quite young, and while I know all about their educational achievements, it’s hard for me to gauge their familiarity and level of experience with the offers that we implement for our customers.
“And then, in turn, it’s hard for me to make sure we can meet the requirements of our potential customers when we are pitching for new projects.”
He went on to tell me that his HR strategy is to give each employee a job title that not only reflects the time they have been with the company, but that also accurately reflects their skills in a meaningful way to his customers. His staff development and training plan is also based on this strategy.
He is clearly one business owner who recognizes that the more technically strong his employees are, the more value they can bring to his company. By investing in their training and certification, not only are his employees more efficient at what they do, they also have a better understanding of the offers they need to implement, are more knowledgeable in front of customers, are able to troubleshoot more easily and so on.
I then went on to talk to him about the importance not only of training, but also engineer certification which can also help address his need for offer competency.
End user demand for engineer certification
Engineer certification in the offers that you deliver to your customers ensures confidence in your business and the solutions you propose and deliver. According to a System Integration Study in September 2013 by Control Engineering, respondents indicated that engineering specialties (91%), project experiences (88%), and product and brand experience (86%) are the most important factors they look for when selecting a system integrator. And this tallies with what we are seeing in the market – more and more customers are demanding systems integrators prove their product and brand experience.
In addition, I’d say the demand for certified engineers also depends on the market and geography. For example in Australia, businesses tend to value proven experience. Qualifications are always important, but if an engineer has done a lot of work in a specific area and can prove themselves then perhaps the certification they have is not as important. In contrast to France, for example, where it’s really the opposite. There is a lot of focus not only on education, but also the institution that education was gained from.
Another important factor is probably business size. For small to medium businesses – which I would say make up about 90% of our SI Alliance Partners – certification is very important to show customers that they will have engineers working on their plant who have a level of training and a level of certification which is matched to what they are being asked to do.
Engineer certification differentiates system integrators in the market
Our system integrators in the Netherlands know this scenario all too well. In the Netherlands we have strong market share in water and wastewater, where a lot of the authorities are demanding Schneider Electric solutions for their water networks. They are also demanding Certified Alliance systems integrators develop and commission these projects. System integrators in the water and wastewater market in the Netherlands know this, and by working with us to become certified, have been able to significantly increase their business by proving that they know the offers, have experience, and can deliver projects with less risk, better quality and on time.
I want to start a conversation with system integrators who are reading this – are your engineers certified? If they are, what value has it brought your business? If they’re not, I’m interested in why.