Topic: Fiber Optic Training Table of Contents: The FOA Reference Guide To Fiber Optics

Fiber Optic Training

No one can know everything nor can any training course possibly cover all the aspects of fiber optics, all types of components and anyway the technology is always advancing, making it important to continue gaining knowledge from all available sources. Much of the technical knowledge needed can be obtained from this website, but what about the skills needed for working with fiber optic components for installation, testing, troubleshooting and restoration?  What kinds of training are necessary for success as a fiber optic contractor or installer and where can you obtain that training?

The #1 Rule Of Fiber Optic Installation
Never, ever, try to install a new type of component or undertake a new type of application without proper training. Not having the knowledge or skills related to that component or application makes it virtually impossible to ensure success on the first job and mistakes can be very expensive. Trust us on this one - we have lots of examples of installations that went wrong!

Getting More Training
There are many options for further training but first you need to figure out what your needs are, what training should include and who can provide appropriate training. As a general rule, all training in fiber optics that is aimed at installers must include sufficient hands-on activities with the relevant equipment, tools and components for the student to develop skills appropriate for that activity.

Fiber optic techs with some experience can often learn how to install many new component types or how to operate new equipment on their own. Fiber U, FOA's free online training site, offers many self-study courses to help you learn the basics of fiber optics, new skills and new applications.

On this website, there is tutorial information on most installation subjects as well as "virtual hands-on" tutorials (VHO) on how it's done, step-by-step. Most manufacturers have good instructions and often tutorials online to help. Given proper tools and applications information, the astute tech should be able to learn new processes in a short time. The secret, of course, is to do this in a quiet, clean office environment before trying it on a customer's site with them looking over your shoulder!

Sometimes, it's better to take a course. Many FOA-approved schools offer advanced or specialist courses that provide several days of intensive training, furnishing tools, equipment and supplies, as well as instructors who are familiar with the processes being taught. Manufacturers also offer product specific training, but one should try to get trained by applications engineers not sales personnel who may not have the depth of knowledge needed to adequately train installers.

Learning to install new components
There are hundreds of different types of fiber optic components that manufacturers have developed for specific applications or to simplify the job of the installer. Many of these components are unique to that manufacturer and may require special tools and installation processes. Examples are prepolished/splice connectors like the Corning Unicam, 3M HotMelt connectors, splice closures, all dielectric self-supporting cables, optical power ground wire, prefabricated cabling systems, etc.

Generally, one should go directly to the manufacturer for training like this unless an independent trainer has been trained and is recommended by the manufacturer and has the proper tools and components to teach the processes required. Some manufacturers offer short introductory courses on their new products which includes limited hands-on time, and such training may be ideal for those interested in learning more about that product before committing to purchasing all the tools and components necessary to use it. Follow-on comprehensive training can be done after making those purchases.

Learning to use new equipment
Some of the equipment necessary for fiber optic installation is complicated and may be difficult to learn how to use without proper instruction on the same piece of equipment. Examples are automated fusion splicers, especially ribbon splicers, cable pulling or plowing equipment and OTDRs.

Some of these pieces of equipment are quite complex and have peripheral products that must be used properly in conjunction with them to achieve the expected results. Ribbon splicers, for example, use ribbon strippers and cleavers, both of which are critical to achieving consistently good splices. All automated splicers have unique programming features so one needs to learn how to operate the splicer unit itself as well as how to make splices using it.

OTDRs are also complicated devices and learning to use them has two parts - learning how to operate the OTDR with all its options and interpreting the data it takes in testing a fiber
(the trace or signature as it is called). While all OTDR manufacturers offer "automatic testing" options, one cannot afford to trust them in all uses, as they can easily become confused by artifacts like ghosts. The user should always manually check the OTDR trace to ensure proper conclusions from test data.

Training needs to be done on the actual type and model of equipment of interest, as different manuacturers products or different models from the same manufacturer may have unique features. To be effective, the training must include two phases - how to set up and operate the equipment itself and how to complete the processes it is intended for.
Generally manufacturers offer training on these products and independent trainers may use the same equipment or will be willing to train you on your equipment if you have already purchased it.

Learning New Applications
A point we make often is that there are many different applications for fiber optics and there are substantial differences in how those applications are designed, installed and tested. Outside plant techs, for example, generally terminate by splicing on factory-made pigtails, while premises techs terminate directly on fibers with adhesive/polish or prepolish/splice connectors. Techs moving from one application to another may require training as well as on the job training (OJT) to understand the application and develop the appropriate skills.

Finding Appropriate Training
Whatever your interest, make sure the courses you take are appropriate for your interests or you'll be wasting time and money. Here are some options to consider:

Can you learn it yourself?
Some of us just learn better on our own. Fiber U, the free online training site is a great place to learn the basics of fiber, new techniques and skills and new applications. All free!

Is information on the topic readily available, for example on the FOA Online Fiber Optic Reference GuideGood videos can help too, especially with hands-on topics like cable pulling and termination. Can you get the right tools and components to use in developing the skills necessary? Is there someone you can call for assistance?

Does the manufacturer offer training? Does it cover what you need to know? Does it offer lots of practice with the equipment and components? Will you be certified as an approved installer for that manufacturer? That can help in getting business from customers of that manufacturer.

Do independent trainers like the FOA-Approved Schools offer training in this area? Does it cover what you need to know? Does the trainer have the latest version of the equipment needed for training? Will they train you on your equipment? Is the instructor experienced and well-versed on the products and technology? Can the trainer offer manufacturer certification as well as other certifications?

Where is the training being offered? Travel costs can add significantly to training costs.

Remember FOA-Approved schools often offer other types of classes than just CFOT certification classes. Check with your FOA school or the online list of 
FOA-Approved schools and see what you can find.

Fiber U
Free online courses at https://fiberu.org

Table of Contents: The FOA Reference Guide To Fiber Optics


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