Q&A: How To Get Into The Low-Voltage Industry
Don: Welcome back to the Low Voltage Lowdown, and today we're going to be talking about what it takes to get into the business of installing Ethernet. What do you need to know? What skills do you need to know? What tools do you need? All sorts of questions come up from people that want to know how to get involved in the trade.
We've got Dave and myself here to answer those questions. Also, if you have additional questions, please put them down in the comments section, where we can go ahead and respond to your questions. Alternatively, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we'll be sure to answer your questions promptly.
Feel free to check out the video below and follow along!
Let's get to it, shall we?
What kind of formal education do I need?
Dave: It depends on how far you want to go in the industry, but finish your high school education no matter what. If you're going to get to the point where you're BICSI certified, which is the gold standard, you're going to have to be able to read at a high level, and you're going to have to be able to communicate verbally and in writing.
As long as you finish your high school education, not just with the diploma, but with the skills that are supposed to accompany it, you will have the formal education you need for success.
Don: I'll also add some community college classes within the IT arena, and I say this because you really want to understand the purpose of communications cable. Some of the underlying information you can learn before becoming an installer is beneficial because it helps you put two and two together in the field, making you more effective.
What sort of industry certifications should I seek?
Don: Well, the ultimate gold standard for a person who installs structured cabling, SCS, or Information Communication Technology, would be a BICSI certification. BICSI is a non-profit organization that puts out classes, online content, and all sorts of helpful information about how to do things properly, according to the standard - which they have a helping hand in. Some BICSI standards are, in fact, a part of the TIA standard.
So, I recommend that you seek a BICSI certification. Start with INST-1. It is a non-renewable certification. It's good for five years, and that's aimed at a generalized overview of coaxial, fiber, and copper and some of the generalized concepts around it, including hands-on training.
Once you get your certification there, the next thing you would want to move to, especially if you're on the copper side of things, is the INSTC, or copper certification. That gets much more in-depth and starts talking about bonding, grounding, and how to properly construct a telecommunications room. If you are more on the fiber side of things, There's the INSTF certification, which talks about handling fiber optic cable. Everything from proper testing to terminating connectors by hand.
Now, if you want the ultimate installer certification, then you'll want to get the TECH certification. This certification includes copper, fiber, and certification testing all at once. In addition, if you are required to use a Fluke DSX 8000 in the field, that being a certification device or some similar certification device, it is part of the standard that you're required to take an industry-certified and approved course to use that certification device.
So, in my case, I actually have formal certification to use a Fluke DSX 8000. That's actually required. The CCTT certification, or the Fluke Network's Certified Cable Test Technician certification, is the one you want to get for that.
Dave: I will add: if you have a BICSI certification, you're guaranteed employment in the industry. But you must have a couple of years of experience before you can even sit for a BICSI exam. So how do you get that experience? Well, if you're brand new, go to the OSHA website and get your 10-hour OSHA safety certification.
Currently, the cost to obtain OSHA 10-hour safety certification is just below $100. This is a worthwhile investment as many contractors and installation companies require this certification for their employees to work on job sites. This certification can also increase your chances of getting hired, as employers can immediately assign you to job sites upon showing proof of certification during job interviews. Otherwise, your employer has to give you time to take it, he has to pay you for that time to take it, and he has to pay for the certification itself. You're much more employable if you show up with that in your hand.
How do I find an employer?
Don: Great question. So if you go to BICSI's website, many installers are listed there. You can locate them by location and just pick up the phone and call or email them. I'm the old-school person that'll want to call, but you know, if emails are your thing, they have their emails listed too. That's a great way of getting into employment. So the BICSI website is one source and…
Dave: Tell people you will be in this industry and need to get started. Tell them what your goals are. Employers want to hire people who want to do this work. So, if you approach people with goals and can show that you're serious, they're looking for you. They're not just going to give you a job; they'll want to hire you.
What tools do I need?
Don: Well, I would say none. Most of the tools you will be using will likely be supplied by your employer, who will provide you with the tools you need to succeed on the job. If they don't provide it to you directly, they'll tell you what you'll need to have.
Sometimes, your employer or contract with a customer may require specific tools for your job. Therefore, waiting until you're certain before making any purchases is best, as some tools can be expensive. If you take BICSI classes, they will provide you with a list of necessary tools or even supply them in a box. However, it's not necessary to have tools, but knowing how to use them is beneficial.
Dave: Right. I wouldn't stock up on tools to look for a job in the industry, but you'll use screwdrivers, pliers, wire cutters, scissors, etc. Some of the things you'll already have if you're a technically-minded individual.
How many years of experience do I need before I can get hired?
Don: Take it away, Dave.
Dave: I think you have to get hired before you can get experience.
Don: There you go, that's the answer to that question. Be persistent about securing employment. That's how you will accumulate years of experience. Additionally, you can further climb the ladder as opportunities arise to enhance your certification status through organizations like BICSI.
The number of certifications, opportunities, and avenues you can take in this industry is endless. It's a work-your-way-up type of thing. Like most other careers, you won't hit payday instantly. You're going to have to put your hours in. Which brings up a good point: at certain point, all the lifting and physical work can get to you. So, I recommend that you be in relatively good physical shape. There is a tremendous amount of ladder work. There's a tremendous amount of safety harnesses and carrying around spools of cable. So you're going to need to be in relatively good physical condition in order to complete those tasks. That would be my recommendation.
And with that, thank you for taking the time to read our content! We appreciate your support and welcome any feedback or suggestions you may have. If there are any other topics you would like us to cover, please don't hesitate to let us know. You can visit our website, trueCABLE.com, where we have our Cable Academy that could help you kickstart your career. Dave and I have accumulated years of experience that we have shared through video and written blogs on our website. We encourage you to take advantage of this free resource.
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