Fibre-optic network operator FibreCo Telecommunications yesterday welcomed 200 learners from disadvantaged backgrounds who have graduated from the FibreCo TechTrain Learnership Programme. Addressing delegates at the FibreCo TechTrain event in Johannesburg, Arif Hussain, CEO of FibreCo, said the purpose of the programme was to commit to building capacity in the South African fibre industry through a structured learning process which aimed to strengthen the young candidates’ ability to gain meaningful employment while building deeper industry partnerships.
“When the programme was introduced in 2012; optic fibre was a new technology which was mostly deployed and managed by Telkom, Neotel, MTN and Vodacom. The programme aims to bridge the gap in optic fibre installation and maintenance capacity across the country.
“This is an important milestone for us, our vision is to provide affordable high speed, Internet access to South Africans as our network goes throughout SA. However network is nothing without maintenance from human capacity,” he pointed out.
According to the company, FibreCo owns and operates a 4 000 km fibre-optic network route and carrier-grade equipment, hosting facilities that interconnect over 50 points of fibre presence countrywide. These include Johannesburg, Cape Town, Bloemfontein, Durban, Port Elizabeth and East London, among many others.
To date, some 200 young fibre technicians have qualified through the programme, resulting in 135 internships and 38 graduates who are currently appointed on a permanent basis with suppliers and other industry players.
The graduates, who hail from different parts of the country, completed a four-month course covering a range of subjects such fibre optic splicing, health and safety (outside plant training), basic IT skills, wireless installation, financial skills and more. These are a package of skills which would typically support a fibre technician in the field installing or maintaining a fibre optic network, said the company.
TechTrain graduate Zodwa Ralarala, from the Eastern Cape, said the programme had changed her life.
“I was an unemployed IT graduate from the rural side of Eastern Cape and upon completion of the programme I was placed as a network corporation centre agent. My duties consist of monitoring the fibre faults on the system. Should there be any errors, I communicate with the service provider who then dispatches a technician,” explained Ralarala.
“We have 15 minutes to create a ticket, troubleshoot a fault and if the problem persists we have to communicate with the Internet service provider to dispatch a technician who will then go to the field,” she pointed out.
Hussain noted there is a new type of fibre network being deployed across the country which enables higher speeds of connectivity.
“There is a growing emphasis on fibre not only among business but also in homes, you can imagine every building has fibre now, whether that fibre is MTN, Vodacom, or Telkom, that kind of infrastructure is a new infrastructure, which requires a new type of skill.
“That’s why we need to have skilled the best breed of fibre optic technicians who not only specialise in fibre optics but also in fixing other things, such as wireless networks and all the other things which are involved in delivering Internet access to South Africans. Through this training programme we are creating capacity for the whole industry,” continued Hussain.
He thanked telecommunications equipment supplier, Saab Grintek Technologies, and MICT Seta, which partnered with FibreCo to make this programme a success. The learnership programme is accredited in SA by MICT Seta and internationally by the Fibre Optic Association.