On Sept. 9, 2021, the Ohio Department of Education shared the following press release:
Ohio Lt. Governor Jon Husted, Director of the Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation (OWT), announced the launch of a new Fiber Optic Technician program at Tri-County Career Center in Nelsonville, Ohio. Fiber Optic Technicians perform functions relating to the deployment and operation of a fiber-optic network. The announcement is part of a larger effort launched today through OWT and BroadbandOhio to grow the workforce needed to expand broadband access and 5G.
The “Strengthening Ohio’s Broadband & 5G Workforce” Strategy underscores the significant public and private investments being made in broadband and 5G at the state and federal level, which in turn is expected to create tens of thousands of jobs in Ohio over the next decade. In an effort to ensure that Ohio has a skilled and prepared workforce to fill these kinds of jobs, the strategy outlines a plan for increasing broadband industry career awareness and creating more training and education programs in the state.
“In Ohio and across the nation there is a sense of urgency to expand high-speed internet, but you can’t expand the infrastructure without a workforce to build it,” said Lt. Governor Husted. “One way we are building that workforce in Ohio is through the innovative Fiber Optic Technician program at Tri-County Career Center, where you can earn the skills and certificates in as little as six and a half weeks and start a new career that pays well and provides long-term stability.”
Lt. Governor Husted traveled to Tri-County Career Center in Athens County to promote the Fiber Optic Technician program, which is one of only four Fiber Optic Association (FOA) approved programs in the state. Fiber Optic Technicians perform functions relating to the deployment and operation of a fiber-optic network. This primarily includes splicing and installation of fiber. Splicing is the physical skill of using a fusion splicing machine to melt two separate fiber-optic strands together in high-precision. 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.
The State of Ohio provided $30,000 to purchase equipment and the tools needed to launch this program and worked with the industry to find an instructor. Additionally, up to $10,000 of the $30,000 grant may be used for tuition assistance to reduce the cost for prospective students.
“Tri-County is excited for this awesome opportunity to work with the state and Horizon to bring Broadband training to Southeastern Ohio which will provide job opportunities for our local residents,” said Connie Altier, Superintendent of the Tri-County Career Center. “The opportunities for them are so promising!
The strategy announced today addresses 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
“Horizon embraces unique and innovative public-private partnerships with a commitment to driving fiber broadband technology throughout the state,” said Brian Riley, Senior Vice President of Operations for Horizon. “As a rapidly growing company in this industry, we understand the staffing challenges. That is why we believe so strongly in our partnership with the State and TCCC to help grow the talent pool by training and developing candidates.”
“Our country is on the verge of investing tens of billions of dollars into broadband and communications infrastructure, 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," said Todd Schlekeway, President and CEO of NATE: The Communications Infrastructure Contractors Association. "Under the leadership of Governor Mike DeWine and Lt. Governor Jon Husted, Ohio is addressing this critical workforce problem and the programs being developed in Ohio will serve as a model for other states. NATE commends the State of Ohio for its leadership and we look forward to working together to build a pipeline of safe and efficient tower technicians who can deploy broadband to rural, unserved, and underserved communities.”
“As the FCC's BDAC report highlighted, there is a mismatch between workforce skills and the needs of the industry,” said Tim House, Executive Vice President of the Wireless Infrastructure Association (WIA). “The full deployment of the infrastructure needed for 5G will require increased investment in workforce training and reskilling. We look forward to working with Lt. Governor Husted to help him fulfill his vision, to prepare Ohioans for jobs building the next generation of 5G broadband infrastructure and to transform the workforce system so that everyone has an opportunity to thrive in this evolving digital economy.”
The “Strengthening Ohio’s Broadband & 5G Workforce” Strategy can be found on the BroadbandOhio website. Here is a PDF version of the 5G Workforce Strategy Document.
Learn more about the Fiber Optic Technician program by visiting https://www.tricountyhightech.com/Content/fiber-tech.