Fiber Optic Cabinets, Cables, Pedestals and Terminals

One of my good friends is a vice president for an engineering consultant firm. When I want to get the pulse on our industry, I call him. Recently, we had a great conversation about the technical challenges with 5G (antenna spacing, signal penetration limitations) and some possible solutions using a variety of frequencies more conducive to obstructions.

Then our discussion shifted to the challenges of a limited labor force for OSP construction and telecommunications workers in general. We talked about how we can get the next generation of workers (the good ones) interested and excited about telecom. Maybe the first thing is to drag our vocabulary out of the past and start using “broadband” instead of “telecom,” for example.

I was in a Starbucks recently and the nice barista asked what I do for a living. I answered that I work for a fiber optics company. She said, “OK…what does that mean?” I rambled about telecommunications, phone companies, cable TV companies, FTTH, wireless, Triple Play, blah, blah, blah, and she still had a blank look. I’ve been in this industry a long time and I sometimes forget what a closed community we are. We speak our own language. Most people have no clue what we do. Anyway, as I was striking out with my explanation, I stumbled on a phrase she did recognize: the internet. I said the internet runs on fiber optic lines. She was satisfied and handed me my Pike Place® Roast and I slid out the door.

As experienced telecom workers retire, a great challenge is finding hardworking, knowledgeable employees and contractors to replace them. My friend told me that many of the students graduating from technical colleges with telecommunication degrees are getting snapped up by telcos and CATV (cable television) companies. Also, we have a big hole to fill in the construction side of our business. It is often reported that about 70% of the cost of a build is the construction. That part is the messy, trench-digging, noisy machinery part…often under nasty conditions…that people take for granted. The “away from home” aspect is also a consideration. Not everyone is cut out to live on the road as much as is required when working for a construction contractor.

The last nugget I got from my friend is that he always asks early on in a job interview how the candidate feels about travel because he knows that is a gating issue. When told the job requires 75% travel, one candidate said, “No thank you” and walked out.

Our industry takes a lot from our lives: 24-hour coverage, travel away from family and stressful times keep networks up and running, but also gives us many rewards. I’m proud to be a part of it.

We still need to accomplish so much and with the constant and unending demand for labor to build our next generation of networks, we need to find good workers to carry the torch. In the meantime, look to Clearfield to help lighten the load with our labor-lite, plug-and-play products to reduce the need for skilled labor with pre-terminated single fiber and multi-fiber solutions. We have a full suite of microducts that allow quick restoration and integrated slack storage products to speed fiber-fed deployments.

Having intuitive, easy-to-install products that make for satisfied customers helps when recruiting the best of the next generation of workers into our industry. We want them to say, “Thank you” instead of “No thank you” when we offer them a job.

For more ways to lighten the load of telecom workers, please reach out to Clearfield.

By Jim Pilgrim

Jim Pilgrim has 40 years of experience in telecommunications with Northwestern Bell/US West, Fujitsu and Clearfield. His work experience includes Central Office switching, fiber optic transport, Fiber to the Home (FTTH) and engineering. Jim currently works as an application engineer at Clearfield, where he helps customers design Fiber to the Home networks across the country.