The ICT industry today needs quality professionals in the field of Optical Fiber Design & Installation especially due to the demand for fibre to the home (FTTH) and the Laying of Fiber communications infrastructure in the Outside plant (OSP) due to the implementation of the National Optical Fiber Network (NOFN) & 5G and the ever-increasing use of Fiber in the next generation 40G/100G Data centers. This is currently seen happening due to a demand for faster broadband speeds required for the evolving needs of the consumer.
However, a major concern today is the widening gap in skills amongst installers – many of whom may have previously only worked with copper – and as the current workforce ages, there are fewer youngsters coming up through the ranks to safeguard the industry’s future.
So, what is the answer to this challenge?
For many companies, it is to hire local people and provide training in-house, or maybe up skilling existing employees. What further augment’s this problem is the company’s who are not always good at spending money on training and often choose on price alone. The trainings if any, that are seen available today, do not follow a needs-based analysis to deliver the skills required for today and are further not recognized globally too.
The right way forward
The right way to train and certify a truly well skilled installer should be that his abilities are recognized globally anywhere in the world and he’s able to perform in all situations of project installs. Now, that the technological advancements are taking off with FTTH & FOSP architectures, the industry needs many more installers with varied skills and more importantly the right skills to understand and comprehend the job requirements and delivery, what’s required now is to train learners to fulfill the job roles rather than spoon feeding them with the so called nice to know theoretical web stuff that’s bombarded in most situations. There are very few providers who can do that kind of analysis & most importantly work on their training delivery in communicating to their audience by truly engaging with them to make the learning experience intriguing and not bombarding in nature.
Telecom project management – The missing link
The aggressive fiber roll-out that’s happening throughout the country, including turn-up of dark fiber installations, is putting a lot of pressure on installers and those in quality control or planning overseeing it all. It is incredibly difficult to pin down exactly what the failure rates are today, and for obvious reasons, no one wants to own up to that, but numbers as high as 30 per cent are talked about happening all across the industry spectrum. Now imagine the costs of that? Numerous repeat site visits, delays in payment, customer dissatisfaction etc. This is costing heavy financial outgoes and time delays. The disappointing thing is that it’s taking far more time for the decision makers to understand that with a little more professionalism and learning on specific areas of management related to this specific industry challenge can help address this challenge more efficiently.
What worsens the problem further?
Along with many of the service providers, it is noticed that much of the burying of cable is now being conducted by a vast network of contractors and sub-contractors who are often experienced in getting things done but not well trained on the fundamentals of the practical fiber concepts and industry best practices and in most of the cases have no verifiable certification before working on networks. To add to this, they are under a lot of time pressure and struggle to be kept up to date with the continued professional development opportunities in training on the latest ICT standards and best practices.
The 3-step process
The first step in preventing this skill downfall is starting with professional specific interactive training so that the ICT industry infrastructure participants (Designers, installers & Managers) specific to their job requirements are made aware of their roles and responsibilities on the job.
The next important step that needs to be taken is to address the long-tail of money that the final outcome of any project. It comes back to the contract and the performance specifications. Most contractors try to offer the lowest bid, just to win the business. The root cause of network problems starts at the clients desks, with their deficient procurement procedures and finally addressing the final step of having the right tools for the job.
The ball is in management’s court
There are quality training centers available around the world. To add to this, every large company has their own in-house standards and training programs, so there is sufficient training available. Ultimately, what’s lacking is willingness, on the part of clients to pay for training, understand the importance of performance and its link with quality installation and finally train the operators and get use the right tools for the job and follow the standard industry practices.
These decision areas aren’t with the designers, installers or the managers, it’s with management. If management doesn’t think it’s important, then nothing much would be changing for the better. It’s all about ‘false economies’. The root cause is a focus on the cost to buy a product, instead of the right goal which is the cost of operating the ICT network infrastructure, the quality of which would define the organizations profit & invariably the nations GDP for the years to come.
Roles International Industry associations are playing in catalyzing the growth of the ICT industry and strengthening the professional ICT community
One such association of repute since 1973 is BICSI a professional association supporting the advancement of the information and communications technology (ICT) community. BICSI provides information, education and knowledge assessment for individuals and companies in the ICT industry. BICSI serves nearly 23,000 ICT professionals, including designers, installers and technicians around the globe including India.
BICSI has several ICT credential offerings in a designated area of information and communications technology (ICT) design and installation. These are in the design areas of ICT infrastructure, Data Centers &outside Plant and in the Project management area of ICT & Telecom.
BICSI also offers Cabling Installation Programs that help deliver highly competent cabling installers. These programs provide a career path consisting of four progressive courses and credentialing exams, allowing students to begin with fundamentals and build upon that knowledge. Upon completion of training, program participants can conduct site surveys and install, terminate, and test copper and optical fiber cable to the highest level of specifications.
Another professional association working for the ICT community is the Fiber Optic Association – FOA is an international non-profit educational organization that is chartered to promote professionalism in fiber optics through education, certification and standards. Founded in 1995 by a dozen prominent fiber optics trainers and industry personnel as a professional society for fiber optics and a source of independent certification, the FOA has grown to now being involved in numerous activities to educate the world about fiber optics and train the workers who design, build and operate the world’s fiber optic networks.
FOA has independent certification training programs in areas of Öptic Fundamentals, FTTx, design, testing, splicing and other relevant areas of Fiber optic, that are recognised throughout the world.
By: Ninad Desai, District Chair, BICSI India