FBA launches OpTIC pilot to advance fiber broadband technician skills in North America

March 15, 2022
The Fiber Broadband Association forecasts that more fiber will be deployed in the next 5 years than has been in the past 20 years -- but the need for skilled fiber-optic technicians will significantly impact each state’s ability to deploy broadband.

The Fiber Broadband Association (FBA) this month announced the launch of its Optical Telecom Installation Certification (OpTIC) program, with the pilot course starting on March 29, 2022, in partnership with Greenlight Community Broadband and Wilson Community College in Wilson, North Carolina.

The FBA’s OpTIC program teaches the knowledge and skills required to properly install, test and maintain high-speed fiber broadband networks. The association says the program was designed by fiber broadband experts to quickly scale fiber technician education, fill the existing fiber skills gap and accelerate fiber deployments across North America.

“Our OpTIC program is designed to provide significant fiber network knowledge and hands-on installation training so that certified graduates can enter the workforce with the skills needed to deploy efficient, quality fiber networks,” explained Mark Boxer, key contributor to the creation of the FBA OpTIC program, FBA board member and technical manager of solutions and applications engineering at OFS.

Boxer added, “The course is specifically designed for community colleges, veteran organizations, vocational schools and private training institutions to deliver in partnership with fiber broadband service providers. Students complete 144 hours of classroom and lab training and either an eight-week internship or a 2,000-hour U.S. Department of Labor accredited apprenticeship. We are thrilled to launch this program in Wilson and look forward to our graduates building the fiber networks needed across the country.”

The FBA forecasts that more fiber will be deployed in the next five years than has been deployed in the past 20 years, but the need for skilled fiber-optic technicians will significantly impact each state’s ability to deploy broadband.

“We are currently engaged with 23 states to roll out this fiber-optic technician training program with their community college systems and fiber-optic broadband service providers. We look to reach all 50 states and the U.S. territories by the end of the year," commented Deborah Kish, VP of Research and Workforce Development at the Fiber Broadband Association. “We did a limited launch with veterans earlier this month and are phasing our rollout based on training institute readiness.”

“It is the FBA’s mission to accelerate the deployment of fiber-based broadband so that every community can leverage the economic and societal benefits that only fiber can deliver,” said Gary Bolton, president and CEO of the Fiber Broadband Association. “When we saw the need for an expanded fiber workforce in order to keep up with broadband demand and growth opportunities, we began development of this intensive training program to ensure that no state is left behind in the digital equity gap.”

The association said its OpTIC program was inspired by the late Gene Scott, a long-time community broadband advocate, chairman of the FBA’s Education Committee and general manager, outside plant of Greenlight Community Broadband in Wilson, NC, where the first pilot course will be based. The Wilson Community College class will be led by Larry Johnson, FBA Technology committee member and president at FiberStory, and Jimmi Hendricks of Greenlight Community Broadband. (To register for the Wilson Community College OpTIC course, contact Robby Taylor at [email protected] or visit https://www.wilsoncc.edu/ce-registration/.)

The FBA will host a series of "Train the Trainer" workshops at its Fiber Connect 2022 event this June in Nashville, Tenn., as well as at its regional Fiber Connect events throughout the year, starting in Baton Rouge, La., on March 23. To learn more about bringing the OpTIC program to a particular community college or training institution. visit the OpTIC program website.

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