We live in a digital world. Electronics and the digital signals with which they communicate are everywhere, from computers to sound systems to children’s toys to appliances. As a result, skilled technicians who can install and maintain networks for these devices are increasingly in demand.
Today’s “digital compatible” homes use a standardized system of communications wiring known as “structured wiring,” which is run directly to every outlet point from a central location. Many new homes have structured wiring systems, but the vast majority of older homes do not. If the owner of an existing home wants structured wiring—to network home computers or install a whole-house audio system, for example—this communications wiring has to be retrofitted.
The demand for structured wiring means opportunities for many people to learn a new trade as a communications wiring installer. This relatively new occupation can be quite rewarding for the right person. The technology in homes is constantly changing, which keeps the work fresh and exciting.
Opportunity is Knocking
Available jobs in structured wiring installation include apprentice wire puller, junior technician, senior technician, installation manager, customer service manager, operations manager, systems designer, business owner and many others. Each of these jobs requires a different skill set. Some companies have trained specialists for disciplines such as security, home theater, broadband delivery and home offices. One person might perform several of these functions in a smaller company, while larger companies typically have installation teams composed of multiple technicians and a team leader or manager.
New-home installations are performed with open walls (before the insulation and sheetrock are installed), whereas retrofit installations may require fishing wires through existing walls, floors and ceilings, and spending time in crawl spaces and attics.
Tools of the Trade
Specialized tools for retrofit installations make this job fairly easy. Among these tools are drill bits with long, flexible, extendable metal shafts, fiberglass pull-rods that follow the same path as the drill bit, and various other products for pulling and pushing wire in tight places without tearing up the walls of an existing home. In the hands of a well-trained installer, these tools can turn the retrofit process into an efficient, profitable business, at a reasonable cost to the homeowner.
To find a job in the electronics installation trades, check the want ads in your local newspaper, trade magazines, or trade Web sites that support the industry. Installing communications wiring and troubleshooting digital networks can be a challenging, highly technical occupation. You want to be properly trained in all aspects of your job, and you should have hands on experience before starting your first installation. Excellent training is available from manufacturers, distributors, training consultants and consortiums, and at industry trade shows and expositions.