Addressing the Broadband Technician Shortage and the Need to Properly Train for Success (Part 2.)

Sean Kelly, RCDD, CFHP – Light Brigade Technical Director/Head of Marketing


In part 1 of this article, we addressed the industry shortage of properly trained and qualified fiber optic technicians, the extrinsic factors that contribute to the slow attraction of new talent, and the need to adequately train new technicians for success. In this part 2 of the article, we will address what to look for in a training program to ensure that your time and investment in your workforce yields the best possible outcome.

Training can be a vague term. It can take on many forms from YouTube tutorials, manufacturer specific product training, on the job mentoring, or even formal courses, yet in many cases training is seen as a cost and time constraint or something that can be done later. While any training is better than none, training is an investment in not only the technician and their work, but also for the reputation of the company and the reliability of the network. A successfully trained technician will have a mixture of comprehensive theoretical knowledge and applied hands-on skills training, manufacturer training on specific products and equipment used, along with occasional tutorial resources to fill in specific blanks or as ongoing refreshers.

This part of the article will focus on formal training but may also apply to other methods.

When it comes to training, we are experiencing a generational divide when it comes to how people learn and retain information. The older baby boomers and Gen X prefer formal training methods, settings, and the associated certifications and credentialing. The younger generation prefers getting their information from social media outlets in a less structured way, in smaller self-paced formal modules, and seem to not value certification and credentialing to the degree of their older counterparts. Time will tell if generations further divide or come together when it comes to how they prefer to learn. In my role, my team and I have spent the past three plus years aiming to revamp training programs to appeal to both demographics in a common setting. This includes reducing the amount of text and bullets on slides, incorporating more photos, videos, animations, and infographics into presentations, utilizing gamification for knowledge checks and retention, as well as the use of connected devices and simulators in the hands-on portion. So far, the feedback from both sides has been overwhelmingly positive.

A proper training program should first and foremost be traceable. This includes third party validation, having recognition by real industry organizations, and most notably having some sort of associated certification or credentialling. The training should be of high quality. There are many options when it comes to training and not all of them reside on the same level. Training should be current, relevant to the end goal, and most importantly professional in content and delivery. The training should also be engaging. There is nothing like having to sit through days of boring, repetitive, and dry content. The engaging part includes keeping learners alert and participating the entire time. This can be achieved many ways throughout the course by having the instructor be not only a seasoned industry veteran able to relate real world experiences to the content, but also managing student to instructor ratios so that all learners have equal opportunity to participate in the hands-on activities and to ensure that everyone has the opportunity for one on one attention to ensure that they have grasped and mastered the content. The training also needs to be focused. It should be designed and delivered to clear student outcomes, remain on topic, and equally relate theoretical aspects to applied hands-on for a comprehensive understanding of the material. Finally, any training course should place the learner first. Training is not a stage for the instructor to show off how much they know, but rather for making sure that the learner leaves the classroom knowing more than they did coming in and will be successful in their jobs with their newfound education.

A properly trained staff creates a higher quality reputation for both the employee and the employer. YouTube does not deliver skilled workers. Time is money. Proper training prevents additional time and costs for rework; and a skilled workforce is an efficient workforce. When left untrained and unskilled, technicians tend to make mistakes and perform to poor workmanship standards leading to decreased network reliability, customer dissatisfaction, and ultimately a bad company reputation. Remember, you will only become aware of poor installation practices when it is too late. Lack of properly trained and skilled technicians will cost you money, or worse, your reputation.


About the author: Sean Kelly, RCDD, CFHP is a 25+ year fiber cable and connectivity professional working in technical, engineering, and business roles. Before joining Light Brigade as Technical Director and Head of Marketing, he spent his career with leading fiber connectivity companies including TE Connectivity, CommScope, and Rosenberger. He has developed and presented numerous educational presentations and courses and has been involved, and held leadership roles, with numerous industry groups.

The editorial staff had no role in this post's creation.