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Fiber Optics Lights Way to Better Training

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by James Hillfiber optic light.Portland Community College can see the light – the light being a need for a fiber optics training program in the Portland area and the instruction for an expanding high-tech field. The result is the first formal fiber optics training program in the Portland metro area. The fledgling start-up will be located at the college’s Southeast Center and will offer four training courses at four credits each, starting this fall. Each module is set up for two weeks, seven hours per day, Mondays through Thursdays. Students will learn how to install, repair and maintain fiber optics equipment.PCC installed the Fiber Optics courses after electricians and other industry people came to PCC in January of 2000 to see if the college would be interested in developing a program to help train workers in the field. Before the inception of this program, there was no formal training in fiber optics in Portland, aside from the occasional manufacturer’s training seminars.Fiber optics medium transmits information through a glass or plastic fiber, in the form of light. It carries data transmissions through lines, and has replaced copper and aluminum lines for telephone and cable with glass fiber. The fiber is capable of carrying 1,000 times the information per strand versus the old lines, increasing bandwidth. But with this increased data load capability, it doesn’t mean thicker cables. One strand of fiber optics has the thickness of a human hair.John Shaw, hired to develop the program from scratch, will teach the courses and serve as department chair, soliciting donations, establishing curriculum and developing partnerships with local industry. Shaw is also helping organize an industry advisory committee to assist in the growth of the program. Eventually, the college and industry hope to be able to offer a two-year telecommunications certificate. One new advisory member, PGE, recently gave $20,000 to the program to kick start its expansion. "For people who work in this area, the fiber optics work is exciting and is the fastest growing aspect of communications and transmission in the world today,"Shaw said. "Fiber optics is the most secure, cleanest and fastest transmission method to date."Even though fiber optics doesn’t offer a certificate yet, the program credits can be used as elective credits for a Facilities Maintenance or an Industrial Technology degree.The new program got a boost from a company called GN NetTest when it donated $220,000 worth of equipment to PCC. The type of equipment donated included laser test sets, fusion splicers, power meters, handheld scopes and analyzers, cabling equipment, fault locators, and other support equipment. GN NetTest, which has an office in Beaverton, is a worldwide supplier of test equipment and network systems based in optical broadband communication."NetTest is proud of its commitment to academic excellence for the new fiber optics program at Portland Community College,"said Ray Cammann, account manager for the company. "NetTest finds this a great opportunity to help develop a win-win relationship with students and PCC to develop future NetTest employees, or customers."The fiber optics courses are under the umbrella of the Industrial Occupations program at the Southeast Center and director Tom Duncan. The theory and modes of light transmission and networking designs will be studied in the first year of the program, as well as what is needed for technicians to be successful in the field."The college is very excited and has been supportive,"Shaw said. "With full support of the staff on board, we’re looking to have a great future."####Grant will steer women to jobs in fiber opticsPCC’s Project Independence will team with Women Work!, the national non-profit network for women’s employment, to implement Recruiting for the Information Technology Age 2002 pilot project at the Cascade Campus. The PCC site is one of five RITA 2002 sites nationwide and will receive $25,000 from a grant by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Dislocated Worker Program.The RITA project will assist employers and establish education and training programs and help implement workforce development systems. It will also focus on recruitment, placement and retention of displaced homemakers, single mothers and new entrants to the workforce, including welfare recipients, in information technology and telecommunication jobs.Project Independence will work closely with the new fiber optics program at PCC to ensure women utilize its class offerings." Project Independence is very excited about this new project,"said Linda Palmer, who directs the program. "Information technology and telecommunications careers have fast employment growth rates, but suffer from a shortage of skilled workers. This project will help past welfare recipients and displaced homemakers achieve self-sufficiency. Specifically, this new project will recruit and train women for careers in fiber optic installation and maintenance."

About James Hill

James G. Hill, an award-winning journalist and public relations writer, has been the Communications Specialist for the Office of Public Affairs at Portland Community College since November of 1999. A graduate of Portland State University, J... more »

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