In order to roll out the state’s massive plans for broadband expansion, technicians and troubleshooters will need to be properly trained for the workforce. Lucky for potential students, a new program is set to begin at Tri-County Career Center in October.
Lt. Governor Jon Husted visited the school on Wednesday to announce the program and drum up excitement about the future employment opportunities. With urgency growing to expand internet access — kicked into high gear by the ongoing pandemic — the focus has been placed on getting potential employees prepared.
“I remember early on hearing those conversations nationally about how we were going to expand high-speed internet and how that should be a priority,” said Husted. “Well, if you don’t have the workforce to do it, you can’t go very fast.”
The program, one of only four certified in the state, will start Oct. 12 and cost the attendee $900. An investment of $30,000 to purchase equipment and tools was made by the state, which also assisted in finding an instructor for the program. Up to a third of the grant can be used for tuition assistance for prospective students.
By implementing this strategy, the state hopes to address three key issues:
- Increasing broadband industry career awareness by exposing middle school and high school students to the industry through curriculum and internships
- Developing and supporting more education and training programs to educate and train Ohioans (similar to the Fiber Optic Technician program at Tri-County Career Center)
- Capitalizing on state and federal funding programs, like TechCred and WIOA, to help finance the education and training that will bring to market the talent supply needed for the broadband and 5G industry in Ohio
Certificates can be earned in as little as six and a half weeks, according to Husted, and can help earners maintain long-term stability in their new careers.
“The graduates of this program will be supplying the broadband industry with the talent that’s essential to expanding broadband access,” stated Husted.
Jobs available to graduates of this program include fiber optic splicers, installers and troubleshooters. Splicing is the physical skill of using a fusion splicing machine to melt two separate fiber-optic strands together with high precision. According to the release, this is often done hundreds of times to connect two large fiber-optic cables together, as well as when additional customers are added to a network.
Husted stated that the annual salary for these positions can range from $50,000 to $100,000 as experience in the field grows. ZipRecruiter.com lists the average annual salary for a fiber optic splicer at $49,713 and $53,260 for a fiber optic technician.
Brian Riley, senior vice president of operations for Horizon, stated the company is ready and willing to hire graduates of the program.
“If you know people that are interested or maybe you’re looking for a career where you can have a long tenure and a high-paying opportunity, please have them reach out and enroll in this program,” said Riley. “We would certainly love to hire them and get them certified here.”
Connie Altier, Tri-County Career Center superintendent, said in a release that the school is excited for the opportunity to work with both the state and Horizon Telcom to help bring broadband training to southeastern Ohio.
“Our country is on the verge of investing tens of billions of dollars into broadband and communications infrastructure,” stated Todd Schlekeway, President and CEO of NATE: The Communications Infrastructure Contractors Association. “But without significant investments in career and technical training programs, we may not have enough communications workers to carry out mandates in federal and state broadband programs.”
With the potential for broadband investment increasing, Husted stated he hopes that Tri-County will serve as a model for other Ohio schools to implement similar programs.