Aeon Marrow, a systems installer in Columbus, Ohio, worked on electrical components and wiring as both an employee and private contractor. His work brought him into the inner workings of buildings ranging from office parks to aerospace design centers. But he knew little about fiber-optic cables—the backbone of modern telecommunications, carrying internet, television, and telephone data to billions of people around the world.
His employer told him about a free two-day, fiber-optic fusion splicing certificate course hosted by Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Sumitomo Electric Lightwave. The event was taking place at the Tolles Career & Technical Center—a school in Plain City, Ohio, which he had attended as a teenager—so he decided to take part and broaden his professional skills.
"I was familiar with the terminology of fiber-optics, but not with the technology" Marrow said.
The certificate course is offered by AWS and Ohio’s Office of Workforce Transformation (OWT), local employers, and educational organizations. It’s one part of Ohio's greater Fiber Broadband Awareness week, which ran from February 27 to March 3 and highlighted the need to bring high-speed internet to all citizens. Nearly 1 million Ohioans do not have access to high-speed internet, denying them critical opportunities in communication, education, and employment.
Investing in the future
Accordingly, the state has been making significant investments in broadband and 5G networks, which is projected to create tens of thousands of jobs over the next decade. Collaborating with AWS on programs such as the two-day certification course will help deploy a skilled, technical workforce to support the growing network, and it’s one of the many initiatives under Amazon’s commitment to train 29 million people for free on cloud computing and technical skills by 2025.
Though AWS has offered fiber optic fusion splicing courses in the past, the event in Ohio marked the first time the company has helped host a week-long event with so many key organizations from the community, including five local telecom businesses, Tolles Career and Technical Center, and The PAST Foundation. Lt. Governor Jon Husted was in attendance and presented a special proclamation to AWS for its role in strengthening Ohio's broadband workforce.
Yesterday, at @TollesTech, Lt. Governor @JonHusted presented a proclamation to @AWSCloud and @TeamFishel for their hard work and efforts towards creating Fiber Broadband Awareness Week.— Lt. Governor Jon Husted (@LtGovHusted) March 1, 2023
The future of Ohio needs a stronger broadband workforce. Well done! pic.twitter.com/tQGiBvB1me
Many of the participants at the two-day course had few to no technical skills. Anu Chacko has worked most of her life at a federal agency. She was looking to make a career change and saw an online ad for the fiber-optic certification course. While she found the course extremely beneficial overall, she was most impressed by the depth of hands-on experience, where participants disassembled the fiber-optic cable's layers to understand each layer’s function.
"I'm not used to using a lot of tools," Chacko said. "But this was very helpful. There's a lot of great opportunities in this field. I'm very happy AWS offered this course."
Lighting a career
Representatives from technical installation employers, like Team Fishel, also attended, talking with students and explaining available job opportunities. Wyatt Kaizer, a local high school senior, said he doesn't have a plan after he graduates this spring. He received a pamphlet about the fiber-optic course in the mail, but he was initially on the fence about attending—until a teacher gave Kaizer the extra nudge to show up.
Kaizer later marveled at the splicing machines. He had expected to sit in a dry lecture. Instead, he found himself with his sleeves rolled up learning about high-grade professional devices by physically ensuring the fiber-optic cable was aligned perfectly before fusing the ends together.
"You have to be exact or the light won't travel," he said. "I've never had an experience like this."
Kaizer admitted that he went into the course with the mindset that he'd at least get a free breakfast out of the day. But, he left thinking that fiber-optics could spark a future career.
For more information on upcoming fiber optic fusion splicing courses visit this site.