Walk the crowded halls of CEDIA or any other industry trade event, and no one can deny the glaring homogeneity in demographics. A young workforce for the future of AV installation is sorely lacking—bordering on crisis status. It’s quite a mystery how the most digitally engaged generation, growing up surrounded by audio and video technology, seems to have little interest or knowledge about good careers in the AV industry.
I’m happy to report that I’ve found eight ambitious young adults that have spent the past year eagerly getting their hands on gear, learning to install extensive networking and general AV equipment as part of an expansive community organizing initiative in one of Brooklyn’s most underserved neighborhoods.
The program is a yearlong fellowship facilitated by the Red Hook Initiative (RHI), a community center focused on empowering underprivileged young people to overcome systemic inequities via social change.
Red Hook was one of the areas hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, and a majority of residents there were without power and communication for months. Through the damage emerged the idea to provide a free Wi-Fi network across the area to help mitigate the extent of future crises. The community-led effort intends to help close the digital divide, provide economic opportunity, as well as access to basic essential services that will improve the quality of life in Red Hook, where broadband adoption rates are lower than the city average.
RHI has employed Digital Stewards, Red Hook locals between the ages of 19 to 24, who are installing, maintaining and promoting the Wi-Fi network while using technology to further develop the community. They have been trained in wireless network installation, software and hardware troubleshooting, and community organizing with help from the Open Technology Institute—an organization built to support open architectures and open source innovations—and Allied Media Projects, which provides training and services to innovate media based practices. RHI has further supplied job training and career development for the young adults.
The Digital Stewards have also engaged in broader efforts to help the Red Hook community by providing a web splash page to display local events, businesses, local news, jobs listings, and other information. They are also creating promotional videos for local businesses as an added incentive for them to host a Wi-Fi node.
As the inaugural year for the Digital Stewards winds to an end, these eight individuals are ready, willing, and able to take the next step in their professional development. They are looking to industries like IT and AV to help take them to the next level via jobs, internships, or further training. They keep a really fantastic blog detailing their weekly projects and other assorted news. There are also detailed profiles of each of the Digital Stewards there.
For an industry in need of young, driven talent, I really encourage anyone in the NYC area to consider how these Digital Stewards might have a place in your organization. I’d like to organize an event gathering local AV industry representatives to come visit these young adults at RHI to discuss opportunities, career development, training, and education, or even to provide mentorship to them. Please email me if you’re interested in any way, ladler[at]nbmedia[dot]com.