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Fiber Optic Cables: Miles to Go in the Midst of Covid-19 Pandemic

An insight into unemployment

The month of February showed signs that the labor market has started to get back up on its feet yet again. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, nonfarm payroll employment in February witnessed an increase by 379,000. The unemployment rate, while still above 6 percent, has dipped from 6.3 percent to 6.2 percent. It can not be negated that these figures continue to relay the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to this piece by CBS News, February has been the most promising time for job gains; October 2020 being the last one to have seen such a spike. Furthermore, the whopping half a million jobs that were lost working in the hospitality industry, have been made up for with the addition of 355,000 jobs.

As-built Team at National OnDemand Head Quarters

The majority of job gains that occurred in February were in the hospitality and leisure sectors, with smaller gains having occurred in health care and social assistance, temporary help services, manufacturing, and retail. A decline in employment has been observed in mining, construction, and state and local government education.

A peculiar problem

Given the aforementioned, one might be led to believe that businesses are either making do with just enough employees, or are on a hiring spree conducting interviews and performing background checks to recruit new workers.

This is not the case, as reported by National Public Radio (NPR). Employers seem to be stumped by a rather strange problem; there are plenty of positions that need to be filled, but no one is willing to fill them. While this may seem mystifying at first, it falls into place when considering the fact that most of the jobs offered are not remote in nature. Understandably so, the pandemic has resulted in heightened reluctance when it comes to working in-person, and while statistics may not necessarily reflect a dearth of people seeking employment, industries that need people to work on ground are simply not being given precedence.

Market overview: fiber optic cables

The fiber optic cables market, however, continues to grow. Fiber optic cables comprise threads made of glass or plastic, which have the capability to transmit data at high speeds. Owing to this, the telecommunication industry the world over has adopted these cables to deliver on their promise of transferring higher volumes of data in less time.

Additionally, their surge in popularity is also due to the fact that these cables are immune to EMI, or electromagnetic interference.

This is one of the main reasons that has accelerated growth in a market that demands convenience in the form of optimized phone services. The pandemic, however, has brought about delays in the roll-out of 5G services. Ironically, it is also due to the pandemic that they are in such high demand. Moreover, the launch of 5G services is also predicted to propel a demand for related products and services.

At present, close to 80 businesses are operating within the industry, while employment is at 6,882.

Current times call for exceptional audio and video capabilities, along with speedy transmission of data as more and more people continue to work from home. The same is the case in rural parts of the U.S., where the digital infrastructure needs improvement. This is one of the sole factors responsible for an uptick in performance within the industry.

Impacted industries

According to this report, around 11.1 percent of jobs are in peril within the hospitality and leisure industry. 2.5 percent of jobs are at risk in the employment services category, with 2.3 percent and 0.5 percent are at risk  in the transportation and minions industries, respectively.

Job announcements in warehousing and construction are not being responded to, even though the latter is one of the industries that is currently thriving. This is largely due to the favorable coupling of low interest rates with a steady demand.

At a time when dreaded pink slips are being doled out to employees left, right, and center, the construction industry is one where the need to bring more people on-board is unmatched.

According to Indeed, there are currently 4,104 positions waiting to be filled in the fiber optics industry alone. These include entry-level positions, as well as those asking for experienced technicians. 

Compare this with the state of the thriving construction industry, which boasts close to 680,000 firms, the sector is a considerable subset within the economy, and one that has been known to erect structures amounting to billions of dollars, month after month. Currently, the number of positions available are significantly more than those within the fiber optics industry. 

What then, could be causing this death of employees?

Again, the pandemic is to blame. Given the nature of the work, the majority of these jobs entail working on-site, and thus add to the apprehension of workers, as referenced earlier. Speaking to the number of positions currently waiting to be filled across both industries, what could be more of a deterrent than that of the constant, looming danger of falling prey to the deadly virus, while working in close proximity with others?

Furthermore, it is highly probable that jobs in fiber optics demand new applicants to have basic knowledge pertaining to the job in question. Companies seem to want people who are already trained to join their workforce, which might do them more harm than good.

According to business author Michael Leboeuf, “If you believe that training is expensive, it is because you do not know what ignorance costs. Companies that have the loyalty of their employees invest heavily in permanent training programs and promotion systems.”

In a service industry, chances are that employees who are untrained will simply lack motivation to not just use their time effectively, but might also not be able to use resources in the way they’re meant to be used, resulting in wastefulness all around.

A ray of hope

One company that’s going about expanding their workforce differently is National OnDemand. Having set up the Fiber Lineman School to train employees, Bob Powell, Vice President of Operations, states, “I’m really proud of the fact that that we turn out these candidates that go to a job site and make a really good living, because of the training program we’ve developed and administered to them”.

In an attempt to do away with anxieties revolving around lack of training and skills, Drew Burne, Director of Operations states how they are keen to welcome anyone and everyone who is willing to learn the tricks of the trade, and amp up their skillset in order to become marketable in the industry at large.

The learning acquired at the Fiber Lineman School can very well lead to a promising career, as evidenced by the trajectory of Kevin Turner, who is currently a supervisor at National OnDemand.

Having begun his career as a groundhand back in 1997, Turner has steadily ascended the corporate ladder and carved out a fantastic career for himself.

As is apparent, starting from scratch can lead to a great many things, as long as the drive to learn and the passion to constantly become better, exist. 

Bearing all this in mind, companies like National OnDemand are going above and beyond to take measures that could well prove effective when it comes to reeling in prospective workers.

What does the future hold?

While the demands of the industry with regards to new hires might not change anytime soon, efforts such as these need to be encouraged and even built upon in order to meet the needs of this thriving industry, while promising growth and security to everyone therein.

The fact remains that it’s much too soon for anyone to be able to soundly predict just how long the world will be in the throes of this pandemic. With a new variant just added to the watch list, we’re still very much in the eye of the storm.

No matter the industry, companies must look to introducing trainee programs that supplement on-the-job training. One way or another, jobs need to be filled; all that’s left to be determined is the cost of making do with untrained employees against the effectiveness of training programs.