Industry Focus - Optical Connections 2020


ADDRESSING THE SKILLS SHORTAGE: Training A Workforce For Fibre. One of the big issues facing the fibre optics communications industry in 2019, and which will continue to have an impact well into 2020 and beyond, is the shortage of skilled technicians. With massive rollouts of FTTx across Europe and the United States, the proliferation of datacentres and the onset of 5G, demand for trained technicians and engineers is already outstripping supply, a situation likely to continue for several years to come. Basic training for e.g. FTTx installation technicians has been made somewhat easier thanks to the design of new test and splicing equipment, however the practical skills necessary for optical networks are so radically different to those required for copper-based networks that even experienced technicians need a degree of retraining in order to make the switch to fibre. Optical Connections Editor Peter Dykes looks at how the skills shortage is being addressed.

W riting in the autumn 2019 edition of Optical Connections, Jay Tourigny, senior vice president of MicroCare, which manufactures fibre inspection and cleaning products says, “To provide a faultless multi-gigabyte service that the UHFC cables promise, the fibre used in the networks must be properly installed and perfectly cleaned to support successful connectivity. However, finding qualified fibre optic splicing, cleaning and installation technicians can be difficult. Many technicians in the field today have more experience with copper cable, but lack the knowledge for fibre optics. This is especially true in more rural areas where fibre optics networks are not as prevalent.” One of the consequences of this, says Tourigny, is that some contractors are

front-line technicians who install FTTH; FTTC or fibre to small/micro-cell. We know that the UK and Germany are among the countries that have massive plans going in that direction. We believe that by putting automation and intelligence in the test sets, we can reduce requirements for training. If you’re in the UK for example, you can train people easily, but in more remote places it’s often more difficult to get access to fully trained technicians.” specialist CTTS Group, said, “In some circumstances training has been made easier with automated machines, but can you imagine drivers of semi-automated cars driving around without knowledge of the Highway Code? One thing I have identified that causes issues is the term ‘low skill’. We have often been called in Speaking to Optical Connections, Martyn Cook, group chairman of training

flying fibre installation teams in from metro areas to complete the fibre work on their data centres. He adds, “There is real concern within the industry that the combination of extensive travel along with the intensity and amount of work required may actually cause burnout on some of the installation teams.” The skill shortage has been eased to some extent by the fact that many fibre industry vendors have greatly simplified the design and operation of their products, implemented cloud-based systems for logging installation, fault testing and cable design, but there are other issues not so easily addressed. Germain Lamonde, founder, CEO and group chairman of test and measurement company EXFO, told Optical Connections, “We’ve put ourselves in the shoes of the



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