For a high school student training to become a network cabling specialist, getting in on the ground floor of an emerging trade opens the door to countless opportunities.
"I like the hands-on experience," says Josip Prenc, 18. An OAC student at Don Bosco Catholic Secondary School in Toronto, he recently began an apprenticeship and is working with Marcomm Integrated Business Solutions.
| Josip Prenc
"On my first day in the field I was...pulling cables through furniture, terminating cables with jacks and bringing a phone system down from the third floor to the second floor," Prenc says. Network cabling specialists install and maintain structured wiring systems (including copper and fibre optic cables) that support voice, video and data transmissions within industrial, commercial, institutional and office buildings and complexes.
They find employment in telecommunications and computer network installation companies as cable installers, installation team leaders, estimators and customer service representatives.
Though the career is not new, it has just recently been recognized as a trade.
"The network cabling industry wanted to create a certifiable trade and to improve standards," says Toni Burzotta, head of student services and co-operative education at Don Bosco.
A local apprenticeship committee was established to meet those goals. In 2001, the Apprenticeship Certification Act established the trade, which falls under the Electrical Contractors Association of Ontario. A certificate of qualification exam will be offered beginning this year.
High school students can enter the trade through the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program (OYAP). This allows them to earn credits towards their high school diploma, while the hours they work on the job are put towards journeyperson certification.
Students from across Toronto's Catholic school board can apply to the network cabling specialist program, offered at Don Bosco. Those accepted take communications technology and pre-placement classes for five weeks in the second semester of their graduating year.
They then attend Humber College for 10 weeks for a foundation in blueprint reading, designing and installing pathways, electronics, LAN systems and job safety.
Hands-on experience in a burgeoning trade is what drew apprentice Josip Prenc to the field of networking cabling.
"The beauty of this program is that students get their Level One training right up front," says Burzotta. "Most apprentices go to work, and once they accumulate enough hours, return to school for their Level One."
Though the school board doesn't guarantee a job placement, it does arrange interviews. "Industry responds very well to the program and have picked up all our students," Burzotta says.
The program goes a long way to meeting industry needs, reports Rick Boyd, Marcomm branch manager.
"It's a very young industry. Because there are no college courses, we were always training our own people," Boyd says. "This program affords us the opportunity to get kids in high school interested in the trade and gives us a pool of potential employees."
The industry has worked to make students better aware of the trade.
"Hardly anyone knows what a network cabling specialist does," Boyd says.
Also known as a communications cabling specialist, the job is not unlike an electrician.
"This is a great field for someone interested in computers and networks," Boyd says. "It's been an extreme growth industry...You can move up the ladder quickly with the right skill set."
(Linda White is a freelance writer based in
Brooklin, Ont. and can be reached at
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