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Kudos to the SCA

The arrival of the Structured Cabling Association or SCA is encouraging news for both end users and installers. Organizers are calling it the industry's first "non-profit professional society" that wi...


May 1, 2006  


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The arrival of the Structured Cabling Association or SCA is encouraging news for both end users and installers. Organizers are calling it the industry’s first “non-profit professional society” that will focus specifically on education, certification and standards.

The ultimate goal is to make training more accessible at the technical college level and if anyone can make it happen, it will be its founding members.

The four are Tom Collins, professor of voice and data wiring systems at Gateway Community College in Cincinnati, Ohio, Jim Hayes, a well known trainer, who also founded The Fiber Optic Association and Cable U training programs, Patrick Baker, implementation manager for The Sage Group, an IT training firm, and Karen Hayes, a public affairs professional who co-founded and was the general manager of Fotec, a fiber optic test equipment firm that was bought by Fluke Networks in 2001.

In a story that appears on p. 6, Collins points out that expanding technical training and certification in structured cabling at the technical college level is vitally important to the growth of many new communications and entertainment technologies.

The organization’s charter is to provide certifications for schools at an affordable price, create an organization that supports all cabling technologies without prejudice and promote practical training on cabling not just “rote learning of standards.”

It will be independent of manufacturers, but support their products and training. Students will work toward earning a SCA CCT (Certified Cabling Technician) designation, which organizers maintain should be a “true measure of competence” for structured cabling installers.

And since most networks today incorporate UTP copper, fiber optics and wireless technologies, organizers say it must cover all three. Topics include how fiber optics works, why wireless is not wireless, cable types and usage, and introduction to structured cabling standards and jargon.

How the four have set up the SCA reminds me of that famous quote from author J.R.R. Tolkien. The wise, he once said, speak only of what they know.

“When the FOA began people had a great deal of difficulty accepting the fact that an organization could be started up and be altruistic,” says Jim Hayes, who along with his wife also founded Uncle Ted’s Guide to VDV Cabling and Lennie Lightwave’s Guide to Fiber Optics. “What the FOA has proven is that altruism in a professional society works.

“We have 150 schools that have certified upwards of 17,000 technicians. A lot of people who use our certification are the ones who were skeptical in the early days.”

There is also the larger goal of changing the way installers are trained. “The people who are writing standards for structured cabling and many people who promote it and teach it, still think that it is unshielded twisted pair cable with a modular 8-pin connector,” says Hayes. “I have news for them — that is the 1990s point of view.

“Structured cabling these days is copper and fiber and supporting wireless. It’s the infrastructure for networking and the infrastructure for premise communications. There is a lot more to it than 4-pair UTP cable.”

The SCA has also pledged not to charge an “arm and a leg” for training, which should be welcome news for both instructors and students.

Canadian schools will be able to benefit since the plan is to take the designation international. That could provide community colleges considering starting a new structured cabling program or resurrecting an old one with a substantial boost.