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Fiber-optic Technology: Where is it Heading, Part 1

Dec 10, 2013 10:30 AM, With Bennett Liles

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Editor’s note: For your convenience, this transcription of the podcast includes timestamps. If you are listening to the podcast and reading its accompanying transcription, you can use the timestamps to jump to any part of the audio podcast by simply dragging the slider on the podcast to the time indicated in the transcription.

Fiber-optic technology is advancing every day, but how is the fiber workforce coming along? Jim Hayes from the Fiber Optic Association is here with news about fiber-optic training and certification. He’ll get into multi-mode versus single-mode and passive optical LANs, coming up right now on the SVC Podcast.

SVC: Jim Hayes, welcome back to the SVC Podcast. We had you on way back a long time ago, but it’s great to talk to you again. I figured it was about time we got back in touch. So refresh us on what the Fiber Optic Association does and what’s been going on there.

Jim Hayes: Okay, well, the FOA was started in 1995 by a bunch of us who figured that the industry was ready for a professional society. So we’re the nonprofit professional society of fiber optics. We were chartered to promote fiber optics through education, certification, and standards. Since our founding in ‘95, we’ve certified over 45,000 techs through over 200 FOA-approved schools, or people who come to us directly with experience, in over 40 countries worldwide. Recently a lot of our activity has been expanding overseas, particularly working with the telecom ministries of companies who are developing their own fiber-optic infrastructure for the first time, which supports their economic growth. So in places like Africa, the Middle East, southeast Asia, and more recently a lot of activity in South and Central America. We try to ensure that there is a well-trained workforce who can install and operate fiber-optic systems. [Timestamp: 1:55]

Now how does the FOA certification program work? They can come to you directly, and you have FOA-approved schools.

Right. The whole idea with the FOA was to set the standards for education and certification. So what the FOA is set up to do is to make the standards for the people we certify, to create curriculum for schools that teach it, create certification exams; we train instructors and we approve schools. We work on what we call KSAs—knowledge, skills and abilities. We define those for the various types of jobs in fiber optics and create the certifications that go along with the KSAs. We’re independent of manufacturers, although half of the founders of the FOA in ’95 were fiber manufacturers. What we do now is we approve the schools and the schools do the training and the certification. We also do online training and direct training of instructors. This is the only training we do, training instructors, and we certify all our instructors to ensure that an FOA school has an FOA-certified instructor, is teaching an approved curriculum so that the quality of education is predictable worldwide. [Timestamp: 3:08]

So that the people hiring an FOA-certified fiber-optic technician know they have a certain general skill set in specific areas and beyond that, with the various manufacturers’ certification, it gets more into knowing that company’s product line.

Manufacturers have a secondary issue with training and certifying contractors, and that is they expect them to know that manufacturer’s products, how to design systems around it, how to install and test those products. The manufacturer certification becomes a combination of technical certification and cooperative marketing. [Timestamp: 3:43]

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