We opened up our survey to companies across the UK, Europe and the Middle East. Whilst all of the questions were not applicable to all of the companies (for example, not all companies would have employed staff in all of the positions), we feel the survey responses provide a good general understanding of salaries in our sector.
“During 2017 there was a distinct increase in the number of AV jobs available in the UK and far fewer candidates applying for each role. This occurred across the board in sales, marketing and engineering both with end user organisations as well as the AV channel,” says Pat Deeley, AV Jobs’ managing director.
All of the recruitment companies we spoke to agreed that finding the right quality candidates was even tougher than usual, and that many roles were taking three months to fill, despite their databases of candidates and wide network within the marketplace.
“Whilst not every vacancy took this long to fill – the quickest turnaround from job spec to placement was less than 10 days, certain roles were definitely tougher to fill than others,” says Deeley.
Unemployment rate low
The UK’s total unemployment rate was 4.3 per cent, down from 4.8 per cent for a year earlier and the joint lowest since 1975. There were 1.43 million unemployed people (not in work but seeking and available to work), 26,000 fewer than for May to July 2017 and 182,000 fewer than for a year earlier (Source: Office for National Statistics December 2017).
“With fewer unemployed people in general, the AV market has a very small pond in which to fish for new employees and hence we have the merry-go-round of people moving within the industry,” adds Deeley. “This is no different from other industries but we must ensure the steady flow of people coming into the industry in the first place and that means education – letting people know that the AV Industry is a great place to have a career, and in apprenticeships and training.”
How many AV companies really invest?
How can we make people aware – in schools and in universities – that there are excellent career opportunities in the AV market in engineering, sales, marketing, operations et al?
Do AVIXA and CEDIA have a role to play in helping some of these in the UK and Europe?
Could some of the vendors sponsor courses at universities – do they already?
Lots of questions here and we don’t have all the answers but if this is of interest to you please come along and join in our Q&A on “The Future of AV” at ISE. We will be holding a networking event on behalf of Women in AV (WAVE) – you don’t have to be female to attend – on Wednesday 7 February at 3.30pm on the AV Magazine stand (N160 in Hall 6). The event is sponsored by Clevertouch and AV Magazine.
Are we paying too little for technical people?
In our latest survey, almost 70 per cent of end user respondents and 40 per cent of the channel cited technical AV roles were the toughest to fill. In 2011 the figure was 55 per cent (there was no split between end user and channel in that survey) – so in seven years we haven’t really moved on much.
“It would be interesting to find out how many companies offer apprenticeships or training in AV engineering. It’s a really interesting sector with the wow factor in so many aspects of the market and yet we don’t seem to be able to attract as many young people into the sector as say, IT – although accepting there is a shortage here too, and how many companies upskill their current engineers,” says Deeley.
In our survey 43 per cent of end users and nearly 30 per cent of the channel would pay an entry level technician/engineer (less than two years’ experience) – less than £20,000 pa and an experienced person (5+ years’ experience) – 47.5 per cent would pay between £20,000 and £30,000. In 2011 these figures were 43 per cent and 56 per cent paying below £30,000 for an experienced person.
“Is this lack of movement down to a lack of training in the early careers of engineers or an attempt to get a fully skilled person on the cheap? Now I know that’s a contentious statement and not every company is guilty of this but how can we fill this gap,” says Deeley.
Project management & technical managers
Interestingly, salary rates for project and technical managers has changed for the better in the main – in 2011 nearly 50 per cent were paying less than £35,000 at this level – today only 40 per cent (end user) and 26 per cent (channel) pay below £35,000.
Thirty per cent (end user) and 50 per cent of the channel are paying over £40,000 at this level now compared with only 26 per cent in 2011. The position of head of AV was not in our earlier survey so we have no data to compare this year’s results against, but over 63 per cent of people are paid over £46,000 (35 per cent over £50,000) at this level. The role obviously requires considerable skills both technically and in managing people and events.
Sales & marketing
In 2011 the toughest jobs to fill were high-end corporate sales roles and integrated systems salespeople, with over 44 per cent of companies struggling to fill their vacancies. Now this number is less than 17 per cent.
Increases in salary have certainly helped here. In 2011 nearly 67 per cent of external salespeople in our survey were paid less than £28,000 pa. In our current survey less than 24 per cent are paid below £35,000 pa with 34 per cent paid between £36,000 and £40,000, 20 per cent between £41,000 and £45,000 and nearly 18 per cent over £45,000. (In 2011 only 13 per cent were paid over £35,000 as a basic salary).
On target earnings have risen too in more or less the same percentages – average OTE now being £55,000 rather than £45,000. To be fair, this year no distinction was made between the channel – distribution and vendors – and integrators whereas there was in 2011. This may skew the figures somewhat but in conversation with integrators the average basic salary for sales is around £35,000 pa.
How will Brexit affect our industry? Will it mean more jobs or fewer?
“Indications are still very positive but are we really just holding a finger in the wind? As we said there are more jobs about in the industry, companies are expanding their staffing levels rather than just replacing leavers, more UK companies are winning jobs across Europe and worldwide – all seems very buoyant,” says Deeley. “ISE will have even more visitors than last year, which in itself was a record, and I’m sure we will continue to see a very bullish AV market.”
Graeme Massey, managing director, JacobsMassey
“We mapped the salary and remuneration survey to actual placements made by JacobsMassey over the past 12 months. The results showed that the survey figures accurately reflect our realtime data. Certainly in the UK. All trends point to a strong AV job market in 2018 born out of that fact that there are more registered vacancies than ever. This is highlighted in the survey where overwhelmingly ‘AV technical staff’ remain the most difficult jobs to fill.
“Additionally, the growth of the freelance and now ‘contract’ market is extremely strong as companies and organisations look to adopt flexible recruitment solutions. In a candidate driven market labour resources are finite so you need to think beyond traditional hiring methods.”
Rob Grays, ceo, Prospero Group
“As we’ve been in the AV recruitment industry for over 20 years now, the biggest change we’ve seen over the times are not a change in basic salaries, but a change in OTE and performance based bonuses. With companies thriving off a work-better, be-paid-better ethos, this allows employees to not only gain on the job experience but not be complacent in their work ethics. With money being the driving force for sales staff, money orientated benefits become the main goal across the board for all staff and staff well-being being overlooked.
“The biggest surprise for Prospero Integrated over the past few years in the European market has been the lack of quality/passionate project based engineers, with client demands and expectations getting higher and higher and salaries going lower each year. This has forced candidates to rethink what they would like to do in the AV industry in the long term.
“The percentage of companies offering AV technicians with less than two years experience to earn £25,000 is very rare. We’d go as far as saying 80 per cent of all candidates with this experience will earn between £19,000-£21,000. As an example, we have an AV technician working for a FTSE 100 company for two years being paid £20,000 wanting to stay at the company but not being able to reach the £25,000 mark for a few more years. However if he/she decided to move companies after their first two years they should expect to earn a £25,000 basic. This is forcing lesser experienced AV techs to train for the first two years with a company and after that period move on to be able to reach the £25,000 mark.
Mina Machacek, director of recruitment, Creative Personnel
“As a specialist AV recruitment team totalling 50+ years, we have seen a shrinkage of UK based candidates. This has led to an increase in the salaries being offered and to more recruiting of European based candidates who are wanting to relocate to the UK.
“Whilst the recruitment process is now a much longer one, by taking more time to find the right candidates, AV engineering and sales roles are filled with candidates that are the crème de la crème from the UK and Europe. This is leading to more diverse teams and bringing in new ways of working from overseas.
“One of the main driving forces with candidates is money but the overwhelming question we get asked is: “Are they a good company? Do they have interesting projects? Will I get training? How futureproof are they?” Companies that can offer training and a career, not just a job are attracting the best candidates. AV engineering candidates are very passionate about what they do and like to see projects executed well. Therefore, companies that have a technical design team, along with good rack build/commissioning that win awards are perceived to be the best to work for and are still able to attract the right people.
“Companies that have a stable team and mitigate the risk of a revolving door of employees understand that the industry is small thus attracting the people they need as they work with their teams closely in the form of personal development. These companies attract candidates that are prepared to be around for the long haul.
“When reviewing the salary survey one has to be mindful of the salaries within the geographical regions of the UK. We are not seeing experienced AV project managers accept roles at £40,000. This is in fact closer to £55,000 and upwards, whilst in the north we would be placing candidates around £40,000-£48,000 (depending on packages). We have approximately 15-20 per cent uplift on salaries/packages for roles in the south east compared to other parts of the UK. We must also remember that candidates are questioning the quality of life a lot more when it comes to travel, expense and time spent, and how this impacts them personally. This has a weight within the decision making process when accepting offers.
“Within Europe we are seeing more AV engineering and AV event based candidates (from Portugal, Spain, Greece, Italy) apply for roles in the UK and we are noticing that AV integration based candidates from Poland, Hungary, Latvia (similar countries in this region of Europe) remain in their home countries as their salaries are increasing.
“We still very much would like to see an increase of companies/organisations hire more junior members and spend more time training. This we believe will help the shortage of candidates as demand will continue to increase for AV skillsets. We get a wide variety of other candidates that have transferable skills and with training and support, they can also be valued members of a team. This will help sustain the levels of salaries within the market as we adjust the supply.”