Coal Miners Strike Gold With Fiber Optics
Fiber optics is providing a growing group of former Colorado coal miners with new careers while allowing them to stay in the town they know and love.
Through a confluence of ingenuity and timing, when Lightworks Fiber & Consulting began winning more and more contracts to deploy fiber-optic cable for local utility company Electric Light Works (later sold to coop United Power), the firm needed more team members to dig the necessary trenches.
Around that time, two of three coal mines shut their doors and miners sought work in a region almost totally dependent on once rich loams of the ore, according to a report by National Public Radio (NPR).
Spouses and Lightworks owners Eric and Teresa Neal almost immediately turned their barn into a classroom and began educating interested miners on splicing, trenching and other components of laying cable. In October, when NPR's story ran, the Neals had trained about 80 coalminers (approximately 800 were laid off).
A fiber optic splicer with one year of experience earns between $20 and $30 per hour, according to a (filled) job posting for Lightworks in Denver. Benefits for the full-time job include full medical, dental and 401K, the ad said.
This is less than miners earn -- but there are a lot of advantages unrelated to salary and demand for these skills. After all, when you're endangering your life underground and risking your future health, the least you can expect is a decent take-home check.
What other jobs would transition naturally into broadband? Are there other declining industries where employees or businesses could segue into a digital role?
— Alison Diana, Editor, Broadband World News. Follow us on Twitter or @alisoncdiana.
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