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Diane Stafford: No college? Consider tech jobs in the electronic security trade

One of the prominent legacies of the post-2008 employment slump was the loss of jobs that never returned when the economy improved. A segment of the workforce most affected by the changes were men in blue-collar jobs that didn’t require college degrees.

Even as the job market has blossomed to what some economists call full employment, the new jobs often require more education or higher technology skills than the jobs that disappeared. That’s why a notice from the Electronic Security Association caught my eye.

The industry, which deals with the installation of electronic security systems in homes, stores, offices, warehouses, religious sites, entertainment locations – frankly, just about anywhere – says its member companies need workers.

That’s good news for the worker demographic noted above. The trade group says it’s looking for you. It’s also keen on hiring veterans who have transferable skills from the military. Women, too, are more than welcome.

“Our industry may be unique from a technician perspective,” said Shannon Murphy, vice president of sales and marketing for the association, which represents about 2,500 companies. “You don’t need a college degree. You can come out of a technical high school or a tech training program, but you can mostly get on-the-job training.”

That’s the theory, but I asked her how likely it was for someone without a degree or experience in the field to land a job.

“There are about 21 million monitoring systems installed in the United States right now,” Murphy said. “There is about a 25 percent market penetration in the residential market, with a huge opportunity for growth. There are lots of new (company) entrants in the industry. We’re expecting to see market penetration numbers rise to the 45 percent range in the next few years.”

The growth, she said, isn’t because of an avalanche of homeowner fear about burglaries. Rather, more people are adopting sophisticated technology systems that allow them to remotely monitor and control their home energy, lighting and security systems. Then, too, she said, “I can see what my dog is doing while I’m at work.”

Another growth trend lies in wireless technology systems, the kind that appeal to renters who couldn’t or wouldn’t install wired systems. Tech-savvy millennials, Murphy said, are buying systems they can take with them when they move from apartment to apartment.

In my opinion, here is the biggest incentive for appropriate job hunters to look into the field: “An entry-level technician can expect to make $30,000 to $50,000 to start, varying on the place and the job,” Murphy said. “And there are opportunities to rise in the companies.”

Murphy added that there is another strong job opportunity in the industry: sales. She said successful sales representatives in many security system companies are making six-figure incomes.

Diane Stafford is a columnist for The Kansas City Star:, 816-234-4359, @kcstarstafford,