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Broadband Telecom Students Gain Experience with Shawnee Communications

 

It started in early September when Shawnee Communications had a need. They had been updating the copper network in Lovington, Ill. to fiber, thanks in part to money from the USDA and the FCC’s Universal Service Fund.

“When we did that, we got the network built out and once it was put together, we really needed to do drops to people’s homes,” says Shawnee Communications Vice Presidet of Government Policy Matt Johnson. “We needed assistance getting the last part of the network into people’s homes and that’s where the partnership with Lincoln Trail really came in. They were able to provide us with students who could actually do these drops while working with our people.”

Shawnee Communications had about 600 homes in the Lovington area that needed to have their service upgrade to fiber to the home. The company and the college are no strangers to each other. LTC regularly places interns with Shawnee Communications.

Eight students with internship experience, Taylor Brown, Drew Coble, Cletus Feherenbacher, Nick Konopasek, Gerald Skolte, Jacob Volk, Conner Welty, and Bobby Wicke, were chosen to participate in the apprenticeship program. Shawnee Communications employed the students and housed them in a hotel from late September into December.

The students were put into two-man teams. Initially, they worked with Shawnee Communications employees, but they were quickly turned out on their own. The students’ job was to tie the fiber from the outside of the house to the inside of the house. The students were also responsible for hooking up equipment inside and testing it all to make sure it worked.

“This is an excellent opportunity and you can’t get this in the classroom,” says Broadband Telecom Lead Instructor Jesse Allen. “These guys are out doing an average of four installs a day or more. They had about 500 on the target and they’re about there. You can’t replicate that in the classroom. They’re actually getting customer interactions. They’re setting up the appointments, going to the customer’s house, finding out where they want the equipment, and actually doing the work.”

For Wicke, that hands-on experience is exactly what he wanted. “Getting the hands-on experience has always been the better option. Yes, you need the schooling to get your foot in the door, but the hands-on experience is going to be where it’s at. That’s where you’re going to learn more and more than just looking at a book every day. Having this opportunity has been a blessing.”

Allen says one of the really big benefits to this program is that all eight students will have great experience that they can put on their resume when it comes time to begin their careers.

While the students have been working for Shawnee Communication, they’ve also had the opportunity to remain fulltime students at LTC. Allen says that the students have been able to watch recordings of classes online and their homework has also been available online. Allen says he also believes that the eight students will really be able to contribute a lot to the program when they return for the Spring Semester.

The feedback on the students has been very positive. Johnson says he’s had the chance to talk with the students and they spoke highly of their opportunities. Allen says he’s been getting good comments from Shawnee about the students too.

“They said customer feedback has been excellent. They’re very polite and courteous and they do an excellent job. All of the feedback I’ve heard has been very, very positive.”

Allen says they already have a very strong corporate partnership with Shawnee Communications and it means a lot to him that they turned to Lincoln Trail College when they needed help with this project.

“I think it’s a great testament of what the program has got to offer. Number one, they have faith in us, enough to say that ‘hey, we’d like to use your students to do this.’ This is a big encounter for them. There’s a lot of work involved in putting all of this together and I’m honored that they chose us.”

He says this has been a win-win for the Broadband Telecom program because it is not only giving the students the chance to have a great experience, it also could mean growth for the program. Allen says he wouldn’t be surprised if they get more requests like this to use students to help with projects.

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