Speaker: Video gamers have qualities PSAPs need
MINNEAPOLIS — A generation of workers under the age of 30 that grew up playing video games may not respond to traditional lecture-and-manual training methods used in many public-safety answering points (PSAPs), but their technological savvy and multitasking abilities may be just what is needed as 911 call centers evolve.
That was the message delivered yesterday by Lori VanGilder — manager of quality assurance services for Replay Systems — during a session at the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) show. Many PSAP trainers have expressed frustration with recruits under the age of 30 that some perceive as lazy, but the real problem often is associated with training methods that are not as interactive as they would like, she said.
"This generation is driving us a little bonkers, because we don't know how to approach them," VanGilder said. "If they are not actively engaged, they are gone."
However, if engaged properly, this younger generation of workers can show remarkable initiative and focus, just as they have when playing video games for hours at a time during their youth, Van Gilder said.
"They will play that game for hours," VanGilder said. "What do we do in a comm center — sit bungie-corded to a position for hours? So, they should be a really good demographic for us to be recruiting."
Making them even more attractive to PSAPs is the fact that they are comfortable with technology at a time when next-generation 911 and other digital technologies are becoming commonplace in 911 call centers.
"For instance, we need people who speak 'text,'" VanGilder said, referencing the movement for PSAPs to be able to receive emergency communications via text messaging.
Much of this technological aptitude has been cultivated in a video-game environment, which often is accompanied by other activities, such as texting, e-mailing, instant messaging, watching TV and talking to friends via a voice-over-IP connection, VanGilder said. As PSAPs are continually asked to get more done with dwindling resources, having call-takers with such multitasking skills will be invaluable, she said.
"They're so technologically smart," VanGilder said. "They are phenomenal."
But this comfort level with technology has been fostered by a hands-on, trial-and-error attitude toward learning — usually without reading instructions — instead of a studied approach tried only after listening, reading and seeing demonstrations for executing a particular task, VanGilder said. In addition, this younger generation of workers does not respond well to working for long periods of time without hearing positive reinforcement form a supervisor, she said.
"This is the generation that got ribbons for just showing up — they need a lot of feedback," VanGilder said. "And, if you give them feedback, you'll get loyalty that is tenfold."