In today's highly competitive VDV industry, the proper training is essential to the success of any electrical contractor. All major manufacturers now provide training to distributors, vendors, contractors, and end-users in the latest low-voltage technologies, products, and applications. Let's take a closer look at two examples.

AMP, Inc.

AMP, Inc., Winston-Salem, N.C., is a supplier of electrical and electronic connectors and interconnect systems. Now owned by Tyco/Electronics, Harrisburg, Pa., AMP offers a series of instructor-led, hands-on courses that support the installation and design of premise cabling systems. All courses are based on current ANSI/TIA/EIA and ISO/IEC industry standards.

"Our goal is to keep the skills of installers, technicians, and designers up-to-date in this fast-moving technology as it continues to advance," said Wally Havran, customer-training manager for AMP NETCONNECT Systems Solutions.

Training enhances a company's quality control, cost effectiveness, and profitability, and provides the electrical contractor with a competitive edge in bidding work, increasing a project's value as well as customer satisfaction.

The installer must also be equipped with the knowledge and skill sets to install and certify the infrastructure to meet the requirements of the end-user or building owner. In an effort to meet manpower training needs of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), the National Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee (NJATC) has developed and offered comprehensive training programs for premise cabling systems, which include AMP's courses. The company has been a training partner with the NJATC for more than 10 years because it understands that installer excellence is a function of knowledge, experience, and work ethic.

AMP's courses are facilitated on a monthly basis at the company's training center in Harrisburg and other AMP Netconnect designated training centers around the country. In addition, courses can be taught at the customer's facility or job site. All aspects of premise cabling systems are covered, including the cable plant infrastructure; telephone and data systems; and fire, safety, and security systems. In the hands-on portions, students use actual AMP cables, connectors, and tools.

AMP's "Installing Premises Cabling Systems" is a 16-hour, two-day course that is 85 percent hands-on. This program offers installers the opportunity to learn the latest installation and termination techniques for twisted pair and fiber optic cable used in networking and premise cabling systems. The course includes an overview of local area network (LAN) cabling systems, the IEEE, ANSI/TIA/EIA industry standards, and actual connectorization sections for shielded twisted pair, co-ax, and fiber optics. Students build and test complete cable assemblies, then see how those assemblies are used in a complete cabling system.

"There are 140 Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee (JATC) instructors nationwide that are certified to teach this course," added Havran.

"Certifying and Troubleshooting Premise Cabling Systems" is a two-day course, 75 percent of which is hands-on. Students learn how to certify, document, and troubleshoot twisted-pair and optical fiber cable plants using state-of-the-art testing equipment.

"As technology advances, installers must increase their skills to keep pace with the increasing demands of customers," Havran said.

"Designing Premises Cabling Systems" is a 24-hour, three-day course that is 80 percent hands-on. It is aimed at individuals involved with the installation and design of premise cabling systems. Emphasis is on the TIA/EIA standards-based structured cabling system that uses an open architecture.

"This course prepares the student to handle the many design criteria decisions associated with modern premise cabling systems," said Havran.

Students attending AMP's "Installing Outside Plant Optical Fiber Cabling" course receive 16 hours of instruction, 85 percent of which is hands-on, focusing on the methods, procedures, and guidelines for the proper installation and testing of outside plant optical fiber cable for the CATV, telecommunications, and utility markets.

"With the diversity of optical fiber cabling and its future in the global infrastructure, these installations have become a multi-billion dollar industry," said Havran.

AMP's "Business Technology Course" was developed exclusively for National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) members interested in either entering or enhancing their position in the voice/data/video market. This workshop is promoted through the NJATC and local NECA chapters.

This 24-hour workshop provides company principals with information on what the premise cabling business entails and how to successfully compete in it. It describes the processes of marketing low-voltage services and navigating the bid process, and teaches the project development and management skills necessary to be successful.

"Students work on developing a customer relationship process and about the vital elements of a strategic business plan that can be tailored for their particular business," Havran added.

Each course has a final exam, and students who pass it earn a certificate of completion.

"The electrical contractor that provides additional training to its electricians and installer technicians stays on the leading edge of new technologies and enhances the company's competitive edge," Havran said.

For more information, visit www.amp.com/networking.

Siemens Energy & Automation, Inc.

Siemens Energy & Automation, Inc., Alpharetta, Ga., offers classroom training and self-study materials to help both distributors and contractors stay competitive in today's global marketplace.

"Our goal is to provide educational services that will increase each business' productivity, quality, and the development of human resources," said Mike Petefish, manager of sales and distributor training.

Siemens' courses for electrical distributors are offered at multiple times throughout the year and are held at various Siemens' factories and sales offices across the United States. Where a Siemens facility is unavailable, the courses are presented at distributor facilities, hotels, or end-user locations.

Classes cover the broad range of products the company sells from power distribution products and control components through automation products, such as programmable logic controllers (PLC) and variable speed drives. Nearly 15 courses are aimed at distributors, which constantly change as new products and technologies are developed. Individual classes range from two to four and a half days in length, with a mixture of lecture and hands-on activities, depending on the nature of the product, according to Petefish. "For example, classes that focus on PLCs would have more hands-on training because distributors need to provide demonstrations to potential customers, in addition to understanding the product's components," he said.

Included in the list of products covered by Siemens training courses are its series of PLCs, network products, adjustable speed drives, and electrical maintenance and power systems. "Educational services offer students efficient solutions to problems and helps to prevent emergency phone calls, expensive downtime, staff turnover, and start-up deadlines," according to Petefish.

Perhaps of greatest interest to electrical contractors is Siemens' STEP 2000 series of self-study books. "This program was originally intended for use by our electrical distributors, but more recently has been used to train virtually anyone who uses or installs our products," said Petefish. The self-study course encompasses 14 soft-cover books that range in size from 80 to 130 pages. The content is updated annually to provide current information on products and technologies in the electrical industry. Titles include, but are not limited to:

- Basics of Electricity

- Enclosed Switches

- Load Centers

- Basics of Control Components

- Motor Control Centers

- Basics of PLCs

- Basics of AC Drives

- Sensors

Each book has a final exam and a detachable postage-paid card for mailing the answers to Siemens. "Students who complete the self-study course and pass the final exam receive a certificate of completion," Petefish said.

In addition to instructor-led classes and the STEP 2000 self-study curriculum, Siemens' Customer Training organization offers on-site training for many of its products, especially automation products and drives. In all cases, the customer is responsible for providing a quiet classroom area and the appropriate electrical power for any Siemens equipment used in the hands-on portion of the training.

"On-site education can be an excellent value when four or more people need training," says Petefish.

The added value of on-site training includes focused curriculums on specific applications, focused lectures, and resources that are close to the customer's facility. Siemens' on-site training program uses a flat-rate pricing structure that varies depending on the product, course length, and number of students. "A flat rate allows the customer to know upfront what is being spent on the training," he added.

Siemens' training programs allow distributors, contractors, and other students to take advantage of a range of training from self-study courses such as STEP 2000 to more in-depth instruction. All of the company's training options offer practical information that allows participants to gain a better understanding of Siemens products and their applications.

BREMER, a freelance writer based in Solomons, Md., contributes frequently to Electrical Contractor. She can be reached at (410) 394-6966 or by e-mail at dbremer@erols.com. For more information, visit w2s.aut.sea.siemens.com/training/index.htm.