ORLANDO — Where do cablecos go when they need to hire new technicians? And are the right people out there? At this year’s Expo, building the next-gen workforce is a key issue, and what it comes down to is different education strokes for different folks.

Speaking at a general session yesterday, several of the industry’s trade representatives – The National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA), the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) and CableLabs  – are at the forefront of developing programs and encouraging innovation when it comes to hiring and training.

“The priority for NCTA is to celebrate the young people who are into science and technology,” said K. Dane Snowden, chief of staff at the group.” But, he added, “We need more minority college graduates and we need to get more women into the C suite.”

Phil McKinney, the new president/CEO at CableLabs, has a different approach. His organization is working with college interns in the Silicon Valley area who are working on R&D. “We want cable to be the innovation platform of choice,” he said.

SCTE has been an integral part of Time Warner Cable’s Vet Net Initiative, which seeks to train and employ veterans. “They bring a set of skills that already are in the marketplace,” said Mark Dzuban, president/CEO at SCTE and a Korea vet himself. SCTE also is ramping a certification program that will translate into college credit for technicians who want to pursue an associate’s or bachelor’s degree.

On the operator side, in the trenches, things are a little different. According to Michael Giobbi, CTO at the Armstrong Group of Companies, weather has a effect on the ability to hire technicians. “It’s a challenge to attract people into the industry, and the weather in Pennsylvania doesn’t help. It’s so hard to compete for personnel. Other industries pay a lot more than cable does.”

“You need to find ways to get your message out there,” said Joe Jensen, CTO at Buckeye Cablevision Inc. Buckeye instituted a two-year high-school program that educated students to the point where several of them were hired by the cableco upon graduation, and it also offers an intern program. Looking ahead, Jensen is thinking about how to craft tech gear and tools to make cable more enticing to young potential hires. “The next-gen technician will have a tablet loaded with intelligence to track the network,” he explained. “We will make monitoring more game-like.”

Debra Baker

The Daily

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