As fiber sees record-setting deployment levels, the demand for fiber optic technicians is stronger than ever. To meet this demand, we’re seeing a slew of training programs nationwide. We outline a few below.
Community colleges will play an important role in training a new generation of fiber technicians. In one example, the State University of New York Westchester Community College (SUNYWCC) offers a three-day fiber technician training course that does not require participants to be enrolled in a degree program.
The course is designed to prepare the students to take the Certified Fiber Optic Technician examination sanctioned by the Fiber Optics Association (FOA) and given at the end of the course.
“If they get certified, they may have a job the same day,” said Jim Irvine, director of corporate and continuing professional education for SUNYWCC. “Employers want to camp out on our doorstep. As soon as technicians are certified, they’re ready to hire.”
Irvine frequently gets calls from companies looking to hire fiber optic technicians, including broadband providers and their contractors. One company has a “tremendous backlog” and is “really urgently looking for people,” he said.
In addition, SUNYWCC offers a placement program for students who obtain certification.
The fiber technician training course at SUNYWCC, which has been offered for over 10 years, costs $925. A maximum class size of 25 helps ensure that students get personalized hands-on training on splicing, OTDR usage, etc. Courses are taught by people aligned with the FOA.
SUNYWCC is offering the course three times in 2022.
Some people taking the course are young and just beginning their careers while others are older and looking to change careers, Irvine noted. Others are already working with fiber optics and have decided to obtain certification.
Among those not already working in the industry, the majority typically find work within 90 days, according to FOA. The association cited the example of a program recently offered in Michigan that had 23 participants, all of whom found work within 90 days.
Fiber technician jobs pay in the range of $26 to $50 an hour, Irvine said.
Meanwhile in Alabama
Among those companies looking to hire skilled technicians are electric cooperatives, many of which are undertaking fiber deployments to support broadband service and smart grid initiatives.
In northern Alabama, Cullman Electric Cooperative partnered with Cullman Area Technology Academy (CATA) to develop a program designed to teach high school students to prepare them for jobs that could involve both fiber optics and electric lineman work.
According to a post published by electric cooperative association NRECA, students who complete the one-semester program will obtain certification as fiber technicians from the National Center for Construction Education and Research, as well as CPR certification.
Cullman Electric Cooperative donated $80,000 worth of equipment to CATA to enable students to get hands-on training, according to NRECA. Half the donation came from a matching grant by the Tennessee Valley Authority for COVID-19 response programs.
The electric cooperative aims to hire some of the students who complete the program as fiber technicians. Fiber technicians in the area make an average of $45,000.
Fiber Broadband Association
Another certification program for fiber optic technicians comes from the Fiber Broadband Association (FBA). The organization’s program, known as OpTICTM Technician (for Optical Telecom Installation Certification) will be offered at vocational schools and community colleges nationwide.
Those obtaining certification will need to retest in three years to maintain their certification.
AT&T and Corning are also getting involved in fiber technician training. The companies recently made an agreement to create a training program in North Carolina.