NACTEL: Preparing Grads for Tech Changes
June 23, 2014
In the race of advancing telecommunications technology, the National Coalition for Telecommunications Education and Learning is helping workers keep up the pace.
Founded in 1997 by a coalition of corporations, the IBEW, and the Communication Workers of America, NACTEL is a program for people in the telecommunications industry that provides education to union members, similar to the programs for labor activists previously offered at the National Labor College. And with uncertainty caused by recent rapid shifts in technology in the industry, NACTEL’s instruction is becoming more valuable to the telecommunications field than ever.
“The need for the same kind of workforce is changing,” said the IBEW’s C. James Spellane, a member of the board at NACTEL who has been involved since its founding.
NACTEL began as the first program of its kind, designed to instruct in utilizing telecommunications technology. Since then, it has been altering the curriculum every year to keep up with industry breakthroughs, preparing workers with degrees in mobile, networking, video, and wireless technologies – fields changing on a constant basis thanks to new and innovative advances.
David Ricciardelli, a member of Middleton, Mass., Local 2321 and equipment installer at Verizon who earned his degree in telecommunications, is among this year’s graduates. He started classes at NACTEL in 2007 because of the flexibility the program offers, allowing him to fit one class per semester into his schedule.
“It makes me a more qualified technician and gives me more options about my future,” Ricciardelli said.
Many other IBEW members have taken advantage of the course offerings at NACTEL, including 13 in this year’s graduating class.
“Over the last few months, we've been in contract negotiations with most of the companies where we represent the workers. In almost every case, new technologies and job security were major issues,” said Kevin Curran, who represents the IBEW on NACTEL’s Board of Directors. “These negotiations have confirmed my belief that the more training and education our members have, the better positioned they will be in our ever-changing industry.”
Partnered with Pace University in New York City, which was recently named the top online university by U.S. World News Report, NACTEL accommodates the busy schedules of full-time workers by offering flexible online courses that allow students to work at their own pace. Employers like AT&T and Verizon even offer tuition reimbursement, and often students return to the workforce eligible for more advanced positions within the companies.
"Often NACTEL graduates are the first in their families to attend college; others have used their schoolwork to inspire or challenge their children or grandchildren. It's wonderful to see children cheering their mom or dad, or parents honoring their adult children. These men and women are an inspiration," said Susan Kannel, executive director of NACTEL.
Applications are accepted year-round, with classes beginning five times a year. Click here for a list of available programs.