In an unprecedented development in the entertainment technology industry: IAAM, IATSE, and USITT have accepted permanent seats on ESTA's new Certification Council, as part of a larger effort to establish a personnel certification program for entertainment technology technicians.

Personnel certification is the voluntary process by which a non-governmental organization grants recognition to an individual who has demonstrated certain abilities, skills, and knowledge. ESTA's program will include the creation of both written and practical exams based upon identified bodies of knowledge, the conducting of these examinations, the awarding of certifications, and re-certifying of individuals.

The entire project is, of course, subject to the raising of necessary funding.

In March, ESTA's board of directors unanimously approved a detailed business plan for a personnel certification program. The board directed the creation of a certification council to act as the program's governing body and charged the organization with reaching out to key industry organizations to make the council fully representative of the industry.

Identifying organizations whose members were either potential candidates for certification or employers of entertainment technicians, the board sent invitations to Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers (AMPTP); Canadian Institute for Theatre Technology (CITT); International Association of Assembly Managers (IAAM); The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Moving Pictures Technicians, Artists, and Allied Crafts of the United States, its Territories and Canada (IATSE); Opera America; Themed Entertainment Association (TEA), and United States Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT). As of July 1st, IAAM, IATSE and USITT have accepted ESTA's invitation and have appointed representatives.

Each organization chose a lead and alternate council member. IAAAM named Dr. Don Hancock as representative and Robyn Williams as alternate. Hancock is director of education, research, and development at IAAM. Williams is executive director of the Portland Center for the Performing Arts. She also holds positions on IAAM's certification board, public assembly facility management board of regents, leadership institute council, board of education, and performing arts committee.

IAAM board president Joseph A. Floreano said, “This certification program is in direct alignment with IAAM's initiatives on many fronts. It encourages an emphasis on safety as a primary concern within the entertainment and venue management industries. It also demonstrates alliances by separate but related organizations that are working together to achieve structure and improved practices. The establishment of ESTA's certification process allows representatives from IAAM, USITT, and IATSE to play an integral role in this proactive approach.”

President Thomas C. Short of IATSE appointed three representatives: Anthony DePaulo, eleventh vice-president of the general executive board and business agent of Local 1; Brian Lawlor, co-director of the stagecraft division; and Tim Wade, chairperson of the IATSE safety committee. “Knowing that the IA will have a guiding impact on this certification program will continue to assure that our members will remain the most highly skilled in the business while working in a well-thought-out, safe work environment,” said Short.

USITT president Bruce Brockman appointed Dennis Dorn, USITT vice president for commissions and professor of theatre technology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison as their representative. Chosen as alternate was Joe Aldridge, USITT vice president for special operations, professor and technical director at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, and a trustee for IATSE Local 720-Nevada Resort Association's training trust.

“USITT strongly endorses this project,” said Brockman. “Certification in key areas of the performing arts industry will not only ensure employers of qualified and well-trained technicians, it will also provide those working in the performing arts an important professional credential. For our members who work in education as well as those who work professionally in the industry, certification will be a significant issue, and USITT is pleased to be playing part in the development of this project.”

The council, which will consist of approximately 20 volunteer members and will report to ESTA's board of directors, will maintain responsibility for certification decisions, policies, and procedures. Appointed as chair of the council is ESTA dealer director Tim Hansen of Oasis Stage Werks. Hansen was an original member of, and, later, co-chair, of ESTA's former certification program committee.

In addition to the organizational positions on the council, ESTA is currently identifying individuals with significant management and leadership skills plus expertise in such areas as fundraising, financial management, marketing and public relations, legal issues, new program development, and governance, to serve on the council. Those appointments will be announced shortly.

Working closely with the certification council will be ESTA's working group chairs, who will lead the efforts of experts in the two areas that will provide the council's initial focus-electrical skills and rigging skills. Co-chairing the rigging skills working group are Rocky Paulson of Stage Rigging, a Freeman Company; Bill Sapsis of Sapsis Rigging, and Eddie Raymond of IATSE Local 16 in San Francisco. The chair of the electrical skills working group is Ken Vannice of Leviton/NSI/Colortran.

The program's business plan was developed under the guidance of a professional certification consultant using detailed research and extensive market surveys that included special focus groups as well as on-line surveys. Through the assistance of industry organizations, ESTA was able to reach a broad cross-section of the industry to determine their thoughts on the subject.

For more information, contact Bill Maiman at ESTA: 212-244-1505 or bmaiman@esta.org.