Sub School Installation To Students? Smart Or Stupid?

This is an interesting article, profiling a school district and an integrator pairing up to lower installation costs in a novel way:

“We’re looking at a program to assist schools in doing some of their own installation,” David Vermillion, president of Vermillion Systems told Security Systems News.

This program would enlist the help of a school’s IT department and building trades program so that some students could do some cabling work. It will provide training for students and lower the cost of a security installation for the school district.

“It certainly can be a pretty significant cost savings when you take much of the [cabling] labor out of the project. It can make the difference between being able to [afford] the project or not,” Vermillion said.

The questions this raises are interesting, ranging from 'Is the district exploiting (cheap) student laborers?', to 'Is there better OTJ out there?'

Personally I think this is a great idea, and as long as it is executed properly, is the proverbial 'win-win' that decision makers seek. However, there are potential downsides as well:


  • Reduced system installation costs
  • Valuable experience for IT students, depicting the 'real' side of many IT jobs
  • Sense of ownership from students on final system, potentially lowering the risk of vandalism


  • Unfair expectations/responsibilities projected to student helpers, who are 'there to learn', not 'do manual labor'
  • Scheme for integrator to sell more product/service to district, under the guise of a 'work study' type program
  • Increased knowledge of schematics/operation/blindspots puts effectiveness of video surveillance system at risk.

What do you think?

Aren't you missing another con? That the integrator generates less total revenue from the deal. Sure, they can increase management / training fees but then they lose out on most / all the install work, which can be substantial. Yes/no?

That's a good point, and a potential con.

However, I think the situation is much more likely the school: "We like what you are selling, but can't afford it" and the integrator is able to sell a system he would not be able to otherwise by reducing labor costs.

I doubt that the integrator will miss out on all installation work. Undoubtedly, they still will be responsible for overseeing all work/checking it, and the performance bond will have their name on it, not the school's.

However, schools could easily see this as a way to reduce costs in general, and once word gets around about the idea, it's easy to imagine schools starting with this proposition.

Think the pros are good as long as the end user understands the cons. And most importantly, the job does not significantly impact the students' regular academic studies.

At least it would be under the guidance of the ingrator so situations like.....

"in an attempt to save money the school tried to do the installation itself or chose inferior or inappropriate systems, and “it didn’t go well.”

..... don't happen- which sometimes do and we've seen before.

I could see it on a limited basis I suppose. If they start running cable for surveillance projects then what's next? "Hey kids we need to rewire our network infrastructure!" lol

It can save some money but a good chunk of any surveillance system is the software, cameras and server/nvr hardware. The cable and labor associated with that is not huge so how much money would they really be saving?

Your con of increased knowledge of the systems is key as well. Anything those kids know is going to be common knowledge around the school pretty quick.

And I assume these are probably kids who will benefit from learning a trade since they are either not college bound or will need to work through college.

A large local school district did this this summer, and I haven't heard any horror stories. But now I'm curious if there are any.

The summer after I graduated high school, I actually did network install and PC work for the district, in exchange for references and a free lunch (not from a salesman, though). I did a pretty good job if I do say so myself, but I'm mechanically inclined, and a superstar, obviously.

and humble!

This is certainly an interesting take.

In my opinion there seems to be more pros than cons. However, an important con perhaps from the school's point of view is that the saving on total project cost, could be looked upon as negative because it translates into a new surveillance system that has, to some degree, been compromised right off the bat??

This could probably be overcome but my feeling is that for the majority of school campuses, it will be a non runner. I think for obvious reasons this type of deployment must be installed by professionals to allow "the board" to sleep well at night!!

Maybe more will start doing it, but my first thought is it won't be as prevelant as you might think. Using student labor will require training and oversight that will make the job go a lot slower. I don't think school officials will want to drag projects out too much if they can help it, working during the schools hours, and you can't exactly use the kids when school is out and the kids aren't around. Your upscale schools will definitely not like the idea. I can see this in mostly poorer districts where focus is on trades and dropout prevention.

I like the idea of it, seeing how hard it's been to find people with experience in my area, something through school to give them hands on experience would be great.

One downside I see, I've seen the type of cabling some of the local school division so, it is no where up to code. Who's to say the person teaching these kids to install survelliance systems will follow proper code and all that, who would ensure they're doing it properly?

I would expect the integrator to bear responsibility for code compliance as well as the suitability and adequacy of the install. Does the integrator act only as inspector and interact only with the teacher? How is quality control managed? Is the integrator to provide any sort of supervision? Given NEA and other issues, can one imagine all of the risks that might possibly arise from these sorts of interactions? I hope the integrator has a good legal department.