Training, Certifications, Skills, Advancement: Line Installers and Repairers

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Line installers and repairers are trained on the job, and employers require at least a high school diploma. Employers also prefer a technical knowledge of electricity, electronics, and experience obtained through vocational/technical programs, community colleges, or the Armed Forces. Prospective employees should possess a basic knowledge of algebra and trigonometry, and mechanical ability. Customer service and interpersonal skills also are important. Because the work entails lifting heavy objects (many employers require applicants to be able to lift at least 50 pounds), climbing, and other physical activity, applicants should have stamina, strength, and coordination, and must be unafraid of heights. The ability to distinguish colors is necessary because wires and cables may be color-coded.

Many community or technical colleges offer programs in telecommunications, electronics, and/or electricity. These programs often are operated with assistance from local employers and unions. Some schools, working with local companies, offer 1-year certificate programs that emphasize hands-on field work; graduates get preferential treatment in the hiring process at companies participating in the program. More advanced 2-year associate degree programs provide students with a broader knowledge of telecommunications and electrical utilities technology through courses in electricity, electronics, fiber optics, and microwave transmission.

Electrical line installers and repairers complete formal apprenticeships or employer training programs. These are sometimes administered jointly by the employer and the union representing the workers. The unions include the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the Communications Workers of America, and the Utility Workers Union of America. Apprenticeship programs last up to 5 years and combine formal instruction with on-the-job training. Government safety regulations strictly define the training and education requirements for apprentice electrical line installers.

Line installers and repairers in telephone and cable television companies receive several years of on-the-job training. They also may attend training or take online courses provided by equipment manufacturers, schools, unions, or industry training organizations. The Society of Cable Television Engineers (SCTE) provides certification programs for line installers and repairers. Applicants for certification must be employed in the cable television industry and attend training sessions at local SCTE chapters.

Entry-level line installers may be hired as ground workers, helpers, or tree trimmers, who clear branches from telephone and power lines. These workers may advance to positions stringing cable and performing service installations. With experience, they may advance to more sophisticated maintenance and repair positions responsible for increasingly larger portions of the network. Promotion to supervisory or training positions also is possible, but more advanced supervisory positions often require a college diploma.

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