Every year, CEDIA Expo advances the custom integration industry. In 2018, for instance, we saw ultra-high definition projection and large-format displays reach an accessibility tipping point. CEDIA Expo 2019 saw the debut of wellness as a major show floor emphasis, which seems pretty prescient now. And of course, in 2020, Emerald launched the first-ever fully virtual CEDIA Expo, allowing the industry to gather, exchange ideas, and discover new products in the midst of a pandemic that, while limiting travel, didn’t slow the custom integration business much at all.
CEDIA Expo 2021 was no exception. At this year’s show, the industry took an understated step forward whose effects will be felt for years to come: onsite IST beta testing.
IST Certification is the next step in CEDIA’s ambitious plan to overhaul our certification program. The Integrated Systems Technician certification assesses the skills of experienced technicians who can independently perform all the tasks relating to pre-wire/first-fix and trim out/second-fix, including basic system configuration, verification, and troubleshooting. It builds upon the new Cabling and Infrastructure Technician (CIT) certification, a foundational credential that assesses the jobsite readiness of wiring technicians. You must already hold either a CIT or an ESC-T certification to be eligible for the IST exam; this certification level is for experienced integrators who can work independently across a wide gamut of tasks.
The step we took toward launching this certification at CEDIA Expo was literally a quiet one. Candidates sat in utter silence for up to three hours while taking the beta IST exam under the watchful eyes of a proctor. There were no shouts of celebration as successful candidates received their passing results, no “IST-Certified Selfies” on social media. The exam is still in beta — the results of those who take it now will be used to assess the validity of the questions, the overall difficulty of the exam, and the appropriate passing score. We will need data from many ambitious, experienced integrators to set our benchmark. Those who exceed that benchmark will be notified in November, when they become our first fully fledged IST certification holders.
Nevertheless, this step was important. Robust, internationally recognized certifications clarify who we are as industry. The IST exam blueprint literally defines the role of a custom integration technician. Like the CIT certification, IST is designed to meet the requirements of the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 17024 standard for personnel certification processes, which is a prerequisite for recognition by many government agencies the world over.
These new exams have been developed by a diverse cross-section of industry stakeholders, drawn from CEDIA’s global community of volunteers. Working closely with testing experts from Kryterion Testing, they have created tests with meaningful, challenging questions. The IST Candidate Handbook further defines the expectations for certification holders, including experience and prerequisite knowledge, adherence to a code of conduct, and continuing education.
This is a certification with a spine. It won’t be easy to get, and that’s by design. The IST will be a true mark of quality — an objectively verified demonstration of an individual’s knowledge and skills. Holding an IST will be a proof point to potential employers, customers, and allied trade peers that you are a trustworthy professional, committed to your craft and worth investing in.
Just like the industry-shaking transformations of years past, IST certification testing is extending beyond CEDIA Expo. The beta test period lasts until October 31, and current CIT or ESC-T holders can sit the beta exam at any Kryterion Testing center or take it via remote proctoring from their own computer.
Those who sit the beta exam are helping to advance the industry, but we don’t expect you to do so out of the pure goodness of your heart. The exam, normally priced at $200 USD for CEDIA members and $300 USD for non-members, is discounted to $50 USD while in beta. Yes, those who take the beta exam will have to wait weeks for their results — but being in the first class of IST holders will be well worth the delay.