Training for success

July 1, 2000

Matching training resources to your requirements involves both knowledge and skill.

By Larry Johnson


How does an organization keep its personnel current with fiber-optic technology? What is the cost and what techniques should be used? Over the years, many techniques have been developed to train employees to meet the challenges of their jobs. Each technique, with both its benefits and drawbacks, presents challenges that today's communications staff must address.

Over many years of teaching and developing fiber-optic courses, I've always driven home the statement that you must "design and implement networks on what your future needs will be and not your present needs." This especially applies to those in the communications industry. With technology exploding, being well trained in the disciplines required for communications is vitally important and valuable to any organization.

The following fiber-optic disciplines must be addressed when considering a training program:

  • Network design. Networks are designed prior to installation and operation. This requires the network designer to understand current technologies and how they will affect the network in the future.
  • Installation. Systems are installed to the latest specifications and codes.
  • Testing. Systems are tested and results are documented and filed for reference.
  • Maintenance. Networks are maintained using current technologies and equipment. System records are updated and filed for reference. In addition, network upgrades should be proactive instead of reactive.

Each discipline consists of a knowledge component and skill component. You need to understand your level of expertise as well as the knowledge and skill components of each discipline when evaluating training options.

Network-design training needs to incorporate more knowledge-based rather than skill-based training. However, knowledge has to be presented in a format that best suits your needs.

A training course for fiber-optic installation needs both knowledge and skill components. You must have the knowledge in applicable codes as well as how to read and interpret product specification sheets. Additionally, you must have the skill to perform the task as required.

One persistent challenge in testing is the use of the new "modern" test equipment that performs the tasks at the "touch of a button." While the usefulness and application of the equipment is very beneficial, there is a tendency to be unaware of both the theory and knowledge of what the equipment is actually measuring. A good training course will teach you the theory so you can troubleshoot when there is a problem, instead of merely attempting the "mechanical" solutions of pressing buttons.

Maintenance training needs to provide both knowledge and skill. You need to know how to make comparative measurements and interpret the results. In addition, you must develop the troubleshooting skills to solve the unanticipated problems that will happen in the real world.

Any lack of knowledge will affect how successful you are in understanding and applying technology. When evaluating courses and content, ask yourself the following questions: Does the training format and content meet my needs and interests? Does the training course's knowledge and skill components match well with the knowledge and skills I need to acquire? Does the training help me develop the skills to evaluate and make my own decisions, or does it insist on following the standards without exception? While standards are good recommendations, they still need to be tailored to your application and requirement(s). Does the course and instructor provide the expertise and content to address my knowledge and skill needs? Do they have real world experience? Do they communicate well?

Larry Johnson is president of the Light Brigade-a company that provides fiber-optic training. For more information, call (800) 451-7128 or visit