Business urges graduates to think tech

With schools out for the summer, recent high school graduates are tasked with figuring out what path they’d like to take next. Many will choose traditional four-year degree programs, but for many others, that may not be right for them. And one Lebanon business owner said that’s...
Jun 12, 2013
 Photo: Submitted to The Democrat

Doug White, designer and estimator for System Integrations, works on the computer in the company's conference room.

With schools out for the summer, recent high school graduates are tasked with figuring out what path they’d like to take next. Many will choose traditional four-year degree programs, but for many others, that may not be right for them.

And one Lebanon business owner said that’s not a problem.

“What we’re hoping to do is to find some students that are graduating from high school that have [the skills we’re looking for], bring them in and put them through a boot camp for four weeks of training,” said Bruce Ledford, who co-owns Lebanon’s System Integrations with his sons Derrick and Jeff.

System Integrations does just that – integrates technology systems in buildings, such as schools and commercial facilities. The company performs a range of services from installing data cabling during building construction or installing security access systems to removing viruses from client computers.

Ledford said the company also typically works with two or three new technologies every year. Because of the rapidly changing technology, Ledford found that even experienced hires typically needed almost the same amount of training as inexperienced hires.

Derrick Foster, the company’s technical solutions manager, said the range of service offerings also makes finding experienced employees difficult.

“There aren’t a lot of system integrators like us that do the breadth of work that we do,” said Foster. “Sometimes you just have to hire people that are inexperienced. It’s better for us sometimes to mold them that way.”

Foster himself had little to no experience when he started with the company 11 years ago.

“I started [with System Integrations] the day after my senior lock-in,” said Foster. “When I started the position, I didn’t really know how to build a [computer] that much. I’d put one together with some help from my friends back then, but I really had no clue what I was doing. I had taken an electronics class, and I’d kind of learned some basics in that.”

He said many of the positions he fills in the IT side of the company require aptitude more than specific skill sets.

“I think if people have a strong mindset towards [problem diagnosis] and are good at puzzle solving, then a tech career is good for them,” said Foster.

Doug White, a designer and estimator for the company, figures out how to makes all the different elements in a project work together in a cohesive system and puts together quotes for prospective clients.

“I took four years of electronics in high school,” said White. “I liked wiring and designing electronics and making stuff work. That kind of floated into this job really easily.”

Jason Shrum, a project manager, also had little experience when he started.

“I took some general building trade classes in vocational, but I didn’t have any electrical – low-voltage or high-voltage – when I started. I was pretty green,” said Shrum.

He and White agree that the main requirement is a solid work ethic.

“You don’t have to have a lot of life experience, just a good work ethic,” said Shrum.

“We need people that know how to work and that will show up on time,” said White. “A lot of times, if they don’t have the skills for exactly what we need, we have a good training basis here to train them and bring them up to speed. We need people that have general knowledge on how to use basic tools and basic electronics, and then we can build from there.”

For more information about System Integrations, visit system-integrations.com or call 615-449-2944.

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