Cable installers more highly trained than ever, yet pay harks back to 1970s
Cable installers these days are expected to command a lot more technical knowledge than in previous days, but the pay hasn't kept up with the skill-level demands.
Linda Hardesty reporting at Cable360.net has written a provocative article. To wit:
"Back in the early days of cable, installers often came from construction backgrounds, with experience in electrical or mechanical verticals. And they were able to easily learn how to connect cable in people's homes. But things have changed. These days, many cable installers are entry-level employees with little training or experience. And they're expected to command a whole lot more technical knowledge, even though the pay hasn't kept up with the skill-level demands.
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James MacGeorge has many years of experience running companies that provide contract installers for cable companies. His previous enterprises were sold to these bigger companies: Viasource Communications and Dycom Industries. Recently, MacGeorge launched a new endeavor, RTK Broadband. "Training today is a lot different than it used to be," says MacGeorge. "It's much more complicated. The retention the individual must have is a lot more."
Where installers used to just master the analog video hookup, today they are dealing with digital video, high-speed broadband and telephony. In addition, in-home telephone systems have become more complex; they must deal myriad Internet-capable devices; and sometimes they have to integrate with alarm systems.
But while the complexity level has gone up, the pay has not.
From comments on a [Cable360.com discussion forum] about high installer turnover, it seems entry-level installers earn between $10 and $12 per hour, and the average pay goes up to about $15 per hour after a few years' experience.
"The techs today are having a hard time making the same dollar amount as my techs back in the mid-Seventies," says MacGeorge. "Techs are making a living today, but that's all it is. Back in the Seventies, these guys were capable of having their own businesses."
The good news is that there is online training available for those operators that want to invest in their people or for individual installers who want to invest in their own education.
As far as training goes, RTK uses its own proprietary system. "Jones/NCTI and the SCTE manuals are excellent programs," said MacGeorge. "Our system doesn't copy those, but it emulates.'"