Car audio training school Acoustic Edge in Houston is planning to launch new classes in vehicle wraps and its changing some of the programs in its mobile electronics training program.
Mobile electronics training will include less class hours on fabrication and more on electronic data modules for remote start and security.
Acoustic Edge is one of about three formal installer training schools in the country (excluding smaller mini programs offered by Mobile Solutions, Educar, Kingpin University and others).
Acoustic Edge trains about 120 students per year in mobile electronics and also offers separate programs in fabrication, upholstery, home AV/commercial installation in addition to mobile electronics. Each program runs 4 weeks and costs about $4,000. Acoustic Edge claims to place close to 90 percent of its students into jobs and says some employers simply call once a month asking to hire any “top gun” students.
Car Toys employs about a third of the students in mobile electronics from the school. The average salary of a graduate installer is over $53,000 although highly proficient installers can eventually earn up to $100,000, said school director David Campbell.
Upholstery is one of the most lucrative skills for installers and it’s one of the favorite courses. “Once they learn how to sew and do these patterns, its fun and you can make a lot of money doing it. Our class goes from learning how to work a sewing machine to customizing a car. You can buy material to do seats in cars for $200 to $300 and you can charge $3,000 for good custom work.” Upholstery installation is also popular in boats and airplanes.
The school decided to offer classes in vehicle wraps because of demand from retailers. “A lot of 12 volt retailers in smaller towns are getting smarter and finding that their bay can be used for a lot more than car audio and security. They are doing more upholstery. Also, the cost of vinyl printing has come down to where some of the dealers can invest in them. Costs are down by 50 to 70 percent. So what our retailers ask for, we try to accommodate,” said Acoustic Edge owner Damon Hill.
Vinyl printers now cost between $10 and $50K, he said.
In the mobile electronics class, the first two weeks are spent learning electronics basics in a classroom setting. Students are taught “how not to mess up a car,” said Campbell. They learn to verify wires, and they take an MECP certification exam. Then the next two weeks involve hands on training.
“We teach the electronics first and then we do the alarms, remote start, box building and panels.”
Before the recession in 2008 there were 16 formal car audio installer training schools. But many closed shortly after the economy crashed, said Campbell.
Enrollment has been steady for the last few years, said Campbell. The school has kept enrollment steady by adding upholstery and home AV installation programs. “We use the car to bring students in” but then they are shown different trades as well,” Campbell said.
Some of the students end up working in the boating industry or at airports rebuilding custom airplanes. “One guy worked at a car audio shop and is now at a government job putting trackers on missiles,” he said.
Acoustic Edge is owned by Damon Hill, who began his career in car audio working for Audiovox in alarms. He then worked for Gulf States Distributors selling Audiovox alarms and later worked as a rep for David Lee Marketing. He purchased the school from David Johnson, formerly of Kicker, in 2004.
As a rep, “we traveled and found that the retailers had book knowledge, but no practical hands on experience,” which motivated him to buy the school.