In 1979, about 15 million U.S. households subscribed to cable television, representing less than 20% of TV households at the time. Fast-forward to the pandemic surge which added about 4,860,000 subscribers in 2020 and an additional 2,950,000 broadband Internet subscribers in 2021, and the top broadband providers now account for about 108.4 million subscribers in the U.S. alone, according to a recent report from Leichtman Research Group.
With more people using more services for longer periods of time, the impact of the quality of the network is tremendous. The cable industry is an American economic leader that has invested more than $300 billion to improve the internet’s infrastructure over the last 20 years. Cable connects communities and billions of dollars are invested annually to deliver ultra-fast internet speeds, power new innovations and services like telehealth, and create award-winning TV programming. The total economic impact of the cable industry is estimated at $460 billion.
Is the workforce ready to keep pace with our industry’s growth and speed of innovation?
Today, America’s cable industry supports a diverse workforce of 3 million direct and indirect jobs. These employees play a critical role in our economy, and employers are struggling to find talent in today’s hyper-competitive labor market. Providers must augment recruitment efforts by cultivating the committed workforce they already have. Continuous training is paramount.
With the increases in both subscribers and time spent at home, networks have needed to carry a much larger and more reliable load. That translates to a greater reliance on better-trained technicians. With the surge in volume, there is a wave of needed development of skill sets to build new networks, modify existing networks to 10G, and replace some folks who may be retiring. We are looking at new areas of science – like artificial intelligence, automation, and machine learning – as we develop the future for managing very complex, sophisticated networks.
Increases in Education
SCTE has been leading the cable telecommunication industry in standards and training for more than 50 years, delivering access to elite online courses, certifications, best practices, and standards to educate the workforce of the future. In step with broadband’s growth in recent years, learning and development (L&D) has experienced an increase in the number of certifications, microlessons, and courses completed.
- SCTE chapters executed 225 training sessions in 2021, nearly 15% more than the number completed in 2020.
- Microlesson consumption more than doubled in 2021, plus we saw a 22% increase in the number of learners accessing them.
- There were a record-setting 50 different interactive simulations consumed in 2021, an increase of 25% from 2020.
SCTE has a full suite of construction certifications available, providing training to build and scale needed networks. There is education available focused on fiber, from introductory courses for beginners who may be new to the industry through training to address the increased adoption of distributed access architecture (DAA), moving key functions and equipment from the cable facility to the access network. Regardless of where a learner is in their educational journey, SCTE leads the industry with its proprietary 3D interactive training technology, enhancing training efficiency and effectiveness in areas like service installation, maintenance, and troubleshooting for outside plant and at the headend. The possibilities are virtually limitless.
Building Your Base of Certified Workers
With specific coursework, standards, best practices, and certifications, SCTE provides the tools to help workers become broadband experts. With a Construction Engineering Professional (CEP) certification, workers are grounded in the construction and engineering techniques that make fiber and coax deployment fast, problem-free and future-ready. The Broadband Distribution Specialist (BDS) certification provides extensive knowledge of coaxial design and RF signals from the optical node to the distribution tap – including architectures, components, powering, and construction techniques. Broadband Transport Specialist (BTS) certification provides deep knowledge of optical distribution in both the access and transport networks. And the Broadband Telecom Center Specialist (BTCS) focuses on standards and best practices for maintaining and troubleshooting inside plant facilities, including control and monitoring, powering and managing networks that support entertainment, voice and data.
SCTE also offers online and in person boot camps for any of its courses, immersing employees with the customized, comprehensive training that places them directly in the action and develops real-world experience for lightning-fast reactions. Through our Corporate Alliance Partner program, we also work with MSOs, technology vendors, and contractors to specifically tailor curriculum to strengthen partner organizations and support business growth.
As part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the FCC formed the Telecommunications Workforce Interagency Group to address the workforce needs of the telecom industry. But the millions of households that are relying on broadband can’t wait. Cable needs to address the labor shortage now, from within our industry, and make the necessary investments in training. And training must be hyper-focused on hands-on skill development to ensure networks are installed right the first time.
Building the connected networks that support game-changing technology like telehealth, IoT, and Smart Cities, starts with skilled workers. Earlier this year, SCTE was awarded a patent for a system that provides feedback in real time using Proactive Network Maintenance (PNM) tools. The training process provides immediate reinforcement or correction, informing workers that the skills they learned will be effectively executed when they are out in the real world.
Regardless of where industry professionals are in their career, SCTE can help elevate their skills and level up in their career. To date, our training has helped thousands of professionals earn SCTE certifications. We also provide Learning Journeys, organized course offerings that focus on industry-specific areas of expertise, and have established educational partnerships with colleges and universities including Cornell, Georgia Tech and Tuck.
To nurture talent among current employees and put your organization in a position to be able to promote from within, leaders must invest in training. Reskilling or upskilling current employees is an investment in your business, your culture, and your company’s most valuable asset – its people.
— Mark Dzuban is president and CEO of SCTE, a subsidiary of CableLabs. SCTE is a global not-for-profit member organization driving the acceleration and deployment of technology in the cable industry. With a career spanning more than 50 years in cable telecommunications, Dzuban has been named a Cable TV Pioneer, Cable Center Innovation Laureate, Cablefax Top 100 industry executive, and has received the Vanguard Award for Cable Operations Management.
This content is sponsored by SCTE.