Lab gives students network skills Bell Atlantic supports technical training; Telecommunications


Bell Atlantic, city-school and elected officials today will dedicate a training facility designed to give high school students entree into careers as telecommunications technicians.

The telecommunications training lab is at Edmondson Westside High School and was built over the past year with more than $500,000 in time, equipment and other resources donated by Bell Atlantic Corp., telecommunications vendors such as Lucent Technologies Inc., several retailers and the school system, according to Bill Darden, Bell Atlantic's director of central office engineering.

The 40-or-so high school students who will go through the program each year -- not to mention the adults that organizers hope to train at night -- are a small part of the effort to bridge the technology-skills gap that seems to be widening, particularly in the telecommunications industry.

"The telecommunications industry is just exploding at this time, with cell phones, pagers and faxes," Darden said.

All that bustle demands installation of more transmission lines, switches and equipment.

"But we can't find enough -- and our vendors can't find enough -- qualified people to get the work done when we want to do it," Darden said.

Many of the current technicians will be eligible for retirement in a few years -- exacerbating the skill shortage.

The training facility will give high schoolers who are academic achievers but aren't planning to attend college the chance for a technologically oriented career.

They will learn to install and test high-speed telephone switches that are the backbone of a telecommunications network. For students who finish the training and pass a skills test, a job at Bell Atlantic will await them. For those who complete the training but don't pass the skills test, Bell Atlantic vendors will line up to hire them, Darden said.

They could earn $20,000 to $25,000 a year to start and could see the salary eventually reach $60,000 to $70,000 with overtime, he said.

Pub Date: 5/11/98

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