Training and Certification: No Longer a Luxury

In this quickly changing industry, additional education is key to success.

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It seems like nearly every week sign and graphics manufacturers are unveiling a new technology or products that somehow changes the landscape of our industry. With an ever-evolving array of tools that increase creative potential and challenge our skills, it is vital for today’s graphics installers to stay on top of the newest techniques and best applications practices in order to keep our edge as talented artists.

I’ve found the best and most useful ways to acquire these skills are through the various training and certification programs offered by leading graphics manufacturing companies. With the growing number of installers pursuing additional training and certifications, it is important to understand the benefits, goals and reasons behind pursuing continuing education and skills training.

Certification for Business Success
In my experience as a graphics installer, trainer and student, receiving graphics installation training and becoming professionally certified can have a profound effect on one’s success in this business. Once considered an added luxury, investing in training and receiving certification from graphics manufacturing companies is becoming a necessity in the industry.

Depending on the location of your business, earning certification can help you stand out from the competition-or help you break into a market that is already saturated with installers.

The benefits from training go far beyond the inherent techniques and trade secrets you acquire. The programs offer networking opportunities with some of the major players in the industry, and certification titles alone can help separate your business from the rest of the pack. Acknowledgement from heavyweights in the graphics industry garner attraction and awareness from potential customers, and certifications from leading manufacturers give a unilateral standard for installation while providing confidence to employers and clients that an individual has the ability to execute a job.

Additional Benefits
Earning a certification or passing training courses from reputable companies can also provide you and your business with additional marketing tools. Upon completion of the program, an individual or company typically gains a listing on the graphics manufacturer’s website as a certified company or preferred installer. This can be an enormous asset for your business to receive new contacts and inquiries, as many prospective clients turn to the Internet to find recommendations from the biggest names in the industry.

Most programs also let installers and companies use the certification title and branded logo in their marketing upon completion of a program. I recommend installers and shops take full advantage of the logo and title, and use it as an advertisement and reputation building tool for your company. When prospective customers are on your website or in your shop and see an established company’s logo and support, it provides yet another reason for them to give you their business.

There are many benefits in receiving training and certification from graphics manufacturers, but it is also important to consider your goals and motivations before signing up for a class. Don’t take a class simply for the title and recognition that comes with the certification. Continuing to learn and improve your craft as a graphics installer will greatly expand your creativity and potential far more than the amount of company logos listed next to your name can.

Questions and Recommendations
Consider the following set of questions and recommendations before signing up for a training or certification program:

  • Are you trying to improve your installation skills or learn about a new segment of the industry?
    Installers shouldn’t take certification courses simply for the prestige that often comes with completion. Training programs offer many valuable techniques, tips, tricks and insights that aren’t always common knowledge. New products can require different methods of application, and training can also introduce you to a whole segment of the industry that will expand your abilities, creativity and knowledge of the industry.
    It is imperative for graphics installers, especially those in a competitive market, to stay on the forefront of new installation methods, trends, products and training programs can help them stay an extra step ahead.
  • Are you seeking certification simply to earn more business?
    Netting additional business is often the main reason installers take a training course, but shouldn’t be the only one. If this is your goal, make sure to use all of the benefits a certification program provides.
    Use social media and marketing to spread the word about your certifications. Network with fellow installers and trainers while at the program, and be sure to prove your commitment and passion for the industry. You never know when a great project will come along as a result of the connections and friendships you make while in a training program.
    Earning recognition from prominent graphics manufacturers will help raise your profile, but only if you put in the work to take full advantage of it.
  • Is this a requirement for new employment opportunities?
    Many installers aren’t aware that several sign and wrap shops require that their employees have certifications or training from certain companies. Be sure to do your research, and stay on top of certifications or training programs that may help you stand out in a job application process.
    When applying for a wrap installer job or undergoing an interview, make it known that you have been professionally trained or certified, as it provides prospective employers with evidence that you are invested and skilled at your job.
  • What subject is the training or certification covering, how is it done, and who is teaching the course?
    Not all certification and training programs are equal. Make sure the program you’re interested in covers a product or technique that will be a quality investment for your business. Consider the reputation of the company and who is teaching the class.
    Are the trainers recognized experts in the field? Will you be able to increase your skill by learning from them? As a trainer, I know first-hand how these factors can dramatically impact the quality of your education, and the future of your business.
    It is also important to find a program that offers testing in both hands-on and written forms, as this method examines physical skill as well as the theory behind the installation process. 3M Advanced Installation Training and the 3M Preferred Graphics Installer and 3M Certified Graphics Installation Company accreditations are great examples of programs that cover all these bases.

Installer Training Now Standard
Receiving installer training and certification from leading professionals in the sign and graphics industry has slowly become the accepted standard, rather than simply a perk. Many large-scale projects now require installers to have certain certifications before they can begin working, especially those from companies like 3M — and in many flooded markets, earning certification is a necessity in order for a business to survive.

As the market continues to grow, products and technology continue to expand, and competition steadily increases, receiving quality and versatile training and certification from premier graphics manufacturers should be top-of-mind for all industry professionals. Be sure to do your research, stay on top of industry trends, and make as many connections in the industry as possible. Training and certification from prominent graphic manufacturers can have a dramatic impact on your marketability and success in the industry, as long as you continue to improve your skills and knowledge of the craft.

* From the 2016 issue of WRAPS magazine

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Mike Zick

Mike Zick is the owner of Mike Zick Installations, Inc. in Arlington, Texas. 817-456-2840. He has been in the sign and graphics business since 1989 and had his own  installation company since 2001. He is a 3M Preferred Installer, Lowen Certified Installer, and a 3M Graphics Authorized Trainer.

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