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Twelve IBEW members graduate from Pace University through the NACTEL program this month—the highest representation of the union to date in this online associate’s degree program in telecommunications.

Left, Sister Amy Palmer, Local 206, and right, Brother Joe Fleming, Local 716.
Other IBEW members in NACTEL’s Class of 2003 are: Derrick Caldwell, Robert Crosio, Alan Dudinsky, Robert Grimm, Luis Llano, John Mazurek, Dan Rumbold, Lisa Schafer, Dennis Smith and Steven Sestito.

NACTEL (www.nactel.org/ibew), which stands for the National Coalition for Telecommunications Education and Learning, was created by the IBEW and the Communications Workers of America along with company partners Verizon, SBC, Qwest and Frontier/Citizens to prepare students for advanced technical positions in the industry. At the time the coalition was created in 1999, the industry faced a projected shortfall of over 60,000 telecom technicians. Now that the industry is experiencing bankruptcies and layoffs, a NACTEL education is proving valuable as a way of helping employees keep themselves ‘employable’ as well as helping them advance in their careers.

The program consists of an associate’s degree in Applied Information Technology-Telecommunications and two certificates, Introduction to Telecommunications and Telecommunications Essentials. The instructor-led program is taught entirely over the Internet and is geared to telecommunications technicians.

Verizon Facilities Technician Robert Crosio, member of Local 827, East Windsor, New Jersey, says his decision to enroll in NACTEL was an easy one. Tuition assistance was part of his benefits package, and he appreciated the convenience of learning online. "I definitely learned a lot of things I didn’t expect to learn ...and the instructors were great." Crosio also felt that having a college degree is an important asset in today’s uncertain job climate.

Luis Llano, a Verizon customer sales associate-retail markets and member of Local 824, Tampa, Florida, entered the program to pick up more skills in telecom technologies. "I liked the flexibility of being able to take classes when it’s convenient for me", says Luis.

Dennis Smith, an analyst with Verizon and member of Tampa Local 108, was searching for a degree program of this kind and couldn’t find a comparable program that focused on the industry. "I think it’s a great degree," says Smith. "And the fact that the union was involved was important to me." He plans to use his degree to move into the operations side.

Other students entered the program with the goal of gaining more technical knowledge in order to improve their performance in their present job.

Joe Fleming of Local 716, Houston, Texas, first heard about NACTEL in a past issue of the IBEW Journal. He is a senior network professional with USAA and works closely with all phases of network communications. Fleming enrolled in the program to be "better able to do my job." He said he feels the program has given him a broader understanding of the telecommunications world, from the point of origination through to the worldwide distribution of services.

Qwest Sales/Service Consultant Amy Palmer, member of Local 206, Helena, Montana enjoys her job handling customer service calls but felt that her business degree wasn’t giving her all she needed to help customers. Her NACTEL studies have made a difference. "Certainly when I speak to our customers now I have a better understanding of the problems they may be facing. I think I’m better at doing my job because of it."

That also applies to Dan Rumbold, member of Local 723, Fort Wayne, Indiana, and senior metrology technician at Verizon. He has over 15 years in the industry but needed more technical knowledge to help him do his job, which is repair and calibrate a variety of test equipment. "I wanted to find out what the equipment was used for," said Rumbold.

Students have found that the program gives them a broader understanding of the intricacies of telecommunications technologies and how things inter-relate. "This gave me the explanation of why something works the way it does," says Alan Dudinsky, customer zone technician for Verizon and of Local 1637, Erie, Pennsylvania.

That expanded knowledge of the industry, plus the college degree, has helped these newest NACTEL graduates prepare themselves for whatever the future may hold. Most have been able to apply what they’ve learned in their current jobs and have made themselves more valuable to their employers. But, if a job change is needed, they’ve earned a valuable college degree. And, all have learned more about the industry that employs them.

For more information on NACTEL please visit: http://www.nactel.org/ibew.

To learn about the upcoming semester courses and to register for classes, please visit: http://csis.pace.edu/nactel.

IBEW Members Earn Telecom Degree With Eye to Future

May 2003 IBEW Journal