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Electrical coordination for telecommunications is critical.

Advanced telecommunication systems are now considered as essential as electricity in today's building and renovation construction projects, from residential and retail to commercial and industrial. Because these two systems are mutually interdependent, planning and implementing this vast technical network requires the highest degree of coordination and cooperation among both specialties. Simply put, timing is everything.

Sense of Teamwork Essential

Coordination of these distinct, yet interdependent specialties is critical from the earliest planning stages through the final days on the construction site. Due to the need for a temporary electrical infrastructure, many times skilled electrical workers are on-site, before any other trade, installing temporary lighting and power for use by fellow craftworkers. The traditional role of the electrician is much like it was a century ago--to lay the core pipework as early as possible, strapping it to the steel skeleton of the building, and performing the time-honored task of bending and installing the conduit. Not only does this complex piping establish the electrical operating system, it also creates much of the telecommunications raceway. Bending of pipe has always been, and remains, an art form that should only be performed by skilled electricians.

Telecom workers, by contrast, are frequently among the last trades on the jobsite. These specially trained technicians run the voice/data/video wiring through raceways, conduits and/or floor-cuts previously established by the electrical team. Before the local area network (LAN) can be utilized, the system must be properly grounded into the electrical system via a grounding bar, installed by the electricians in close proximity to the telecom center. The skilled telecom team installs the vertical (backbone) and the horizontal (station cable) and all associated racking to support each building's communications requirements. In short, telecom workers concentrate on all the low-voltage premises wiring systems and the equipment that runs over it, while electricians focus on installing the building's power, lighting and raceways of the entire electrical system.

Perhaps the greatest test of electrical and telecom coordination is in high-rise construction projects. As the conduits are installed in each floor by the electrical team, the telecom workers are literally right behind them, installing the voice/data/video wiring systems. This makes continuous communication and coordination even more essential, as the building extends upward, stage by stage.

Professional Training Programs a Fundamental Requisite

The fast-paced evolution of technology in both fields and end-user expectations for only the latest, cutting-edge systems have created a market demand for electrical and telecom workers who have successfully collaborated on previous projects. Comprehensive classroom training remains at the core of this success. For example, IBEW Local 164 provides its members with pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship training as well as continuing education classes in both fields, with an emphasis on the coordination between the two disciplines.

The foundation for traditional electrical training must emphasize the long-established electrical theories as well as national and local codes for proper electrical system installations. In contrast, the telecom industry has yet to establish a true national code so telecom workers must keep pace with the constant changes to the industry's recognized installation practices as described in such publications as the EIA/TIA standards. As technology changes, so does its installation practices. Therefore, it is critical for the telecom worker to stay abreast of these changes through constant retraining. Lifelong learning is a phrase often used by telecom industry educators. At IBEW Local 164, continued education is stressed as much to the long-time technician as to the new apprentice.

Classroom lectures and laboratory work must also be supplemented with on-the-job training supervised by an experienced electrical journeyperson or telecom technician. At IBEW Local 164, electrical and telecommunications apprentices fulfill a minimum of 160 hours of classroom training per year, as well as 2,000 hours "in the field" per year. Not only does this provide real-world experience, it also offers students a first-hand opportunity to work in cooperation with other tradespeople.

Although there is frequent crossover in the electrical and telecom fields during training, it is incorrect to presume that skilled workers experienced in one area are equally proficient in the other. While these two distinct technologies may work simultaneously or in tandem, a mutual respect for each specialty must exist to insure that each project progresses professionally, competently and efficiently and is completed on time and within budget.

It is clear that in this era of ever-changing and evolving technology, dictated by complex system installations and maintenance, electricians and telecommunications workers must work in collaboration. Without a true partnership between these two highly advanced--and often dangerous--trades, it's the customer and end-users who would suffer from any work stoppages caused by a lack of coordination between the trades. In a world in which "time is money," these potential stoppages are unacceptable. Working together, there is no limit to what these two groups of skilled and knowledgeable workers can accomplish while bringing electricity and communication to the fingertips of the American people and businesses throughout the course of each day.
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Title Annotation:Technology
Author:Misciagna, Keith
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 15, 2004
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