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Building the Fiber Workforce Pipeline

Over 205,000 new jobs are required by the fiber industry to maintain and operate the networks being built over the next five years, according to the Fiber Broadband Association’s projections, but until recently there’s been a dearth of standardized training and credentialing for fiber optic technicians. FBA’s OpTIC Path™ certification program helps remedy this problem.

“The goal is to a have a trusted, nationally recognized entry-level fiber credential,” said Deborah Kish, Vice President of Research and Workforce Development for FBA. “We want to be the Cisco CCNA of the fiber world. OpTIC Path™ offers a deeper focus on fiber knowledge and a hands-on skill set for fiber optic technicians for such things as splicing, testing, and troubleshooting.”

To promote OpTIC Path™ and foster workforce development efforts, FBA is developing a workforce development playbook with Cartesian, the same firm that worked with FBA to develop the Broadband Infrastructure Playbook.

“We’re looking forward to having a very credible, very useful tool that can help provide guidance at the state level and reaches down into local communities,” said Mark Boxer, a member of FBA’s Education Committee and a Workforce Technical Manager, Solutions and Applications Engineering at OFS. “The goal is to lay out the process to determine the training needs at those levels and then figure out how to meet them…it’s not a straightforward process.”

FBA is working with the Wireless Infrastructure Association (WIA) to provide a joint approach to training for wireless and wireline broadband needs, and with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), reviewing its workforce planning guidance for BEAD programs.

“The process we’re putting in place in the workforce development playbook is very much in line with some of the recommendations that are placed in [NTIA’s] document,” said Boxer. “What we’re trying to do is provide more of a granular approach and more granular instruction to enable people to help plan this process out and really demystify it.”

FBA efforts like OpTIC Path™ and the forthcoming workforce development playbook are necessary to provide substance and structure for ensuring the fiber industry gets the trained technicians it needs in the years to come.

To learn more about the efforts and challenges in fiber workforce development, listen to the latest Fiber for Breakfast podcast brought to you by our Platinum Sponsor Wesco.