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First Graduates Complete Telecom Degree Program

August 2001 IBEW Journal

Joe Courtemanche, an employee of Qwest and a CWA member, addresses the NACTEL graduation gathering in White Plains, New York.  He was the only member of the graduating class to attend in person, meeting his professors for the first time.

The first graduates have received their associates degree in telecommunications technology from the program started three years ago by the IBEW, the Communications Workers of America (CWA), Pace University and four companies to respond to the critical shortage of skilled technicians.

NACTEL (National Coalition for Telecommunications Education and Learning) has Verizon, SBC, Qwest and Citizens as participating companies and also enlisted the help of adult educators brought together by the Coalition of Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL). Pace University is located in White Plains, New York.

The first eight graduates took part in a May 21 commencement program on the White Plains campus.

Among the 533 students currently enrolled is Jesse Diaz, a member of IBEW Local 827, East Windsor, New Jersey, who calls NACTEL one of the best experiences of my life. It gave me an opportunity to get my education, said Diaz, adding that he knew the material in one company exam he took because of his NACTEL classes while working as a facility technician/splicer at Verizon. Similarly, Joe Courtemanche, a Qwest customer communication technician, says his online training helped him advance through four pay scales and notes if you want adults back in the classroom, you need the classroom in the home or office.

The convenience of the NACTEL program is going to become even more important, the first graduates were told, because the shortage of technicians is expected to get worse.

NACTEL is instructor-led, but totally online so students can study any time from anywhere by accessing the Internet. They can earn an associates degree in telecommunications without going inside a classroom. [See Telecom Degree Program Opens Its Virtual Doors, p. 14, IBEW Journal, October 1999.]

The classes were designed in 1998, with a pilot program launched in the first six months of 1999. Since January 2000, the program has been open to anyone; all employees of the four companies and all IBEW and CWA members are eligible for tuition assistance. The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation provided the initial funding for the program. More information is available on the NACTEL web site www.nactel.org.

Some IBEW members want to advance on their current telecommunications job, others want to fulfill their ambition of a college degree, and they found the program enables them to do both. The NACTEL curriculum offers training for real jobs and also meets academic requirements so credits are transferable for a four-year degree.

NACTEL Early Fall Semester Taking Applicants