There’s a future in fiber for laid off miner Fred Bentley

By Jennifer Little

PIKEVILLE – Fred Bentley II worked in the coal mines of West Virginia, near his home of Lenore for more than 20 years. He did about every job underground, from shoveling coal onto a belt, loading trains and even surveying.

The decline of coal placed Fred – and countless others – on the unemployment lines and in need of retraining.

“I applied for jobs all over the country,” said Bentley. “I was laid off for over a year, and the despair really set in. I had gone to college some, but the money I could make in the mines pulled me away.”

That’s when Bentley got a second chance that was life changing.

Bentley learned of the Fiber Optics training program at Big Sandy Community and Technical College (BSCTC). The program helped Bentley learn world-class and industry-leading skills such as the installation and splicing of Hybrid Fiber Cable (HFC), as well as basic telephony installation and maintenance, outside pole climbing and construction safety.

Nine days later, Bentley held four Fiber Optics Association (FOA) sanctioned credentials: Certified Fiber Optics Technician, a Certified Fiber Optics Specialist/Testing and Maintenance (CFOS/T), Fiber Optics Splicing Specialist (CFOS/S), and Certified Fiber Optics Specialist in Outside Plant Cabling (CFOS/O). He was hired immediately within 30 minutes of filling out an application online and currently oversees the Accordant Communications Warehouse in Seabrook, Texas.

“I was very nervous to start back [to school]” said Bentley, who was a standout basketball player at Tug Valley (W.Va.) High School. His son, Cole, a standout at Belfry High School, has committed to play football at the University of Louisville in 2017. “You are never too old to learn something new.”

Bob Ballard, who works for BDI Datalynk and is considered by many as the “father of fiber optics training,” has taught several classes at BSCTC’s Pikeville campus. He was instrumental in Fred’s success in the course.

“Fiber seems very intimidating, but Bob [Ballard] put me at ease and if you are thinking of a career change I would recommend this program for anyone,” he said. “I have a very bright future with this company.”

BSCTC was the first school in Kentucky to offer FOA sanctioned Fiber Optics training. Later this year, the college will break ground on a $4.5 million Advanced Technology Center – the first of its kind in Kentucky – to house the Fiber Optics and Broadband Technology associate degree program, the third program of its kind in the United States. The Advanced Technology Center will be the state’s first fiber-to-the-desk facility.

The college, in partnership with the Kentucky Coal Academy, will offer an enhanced Fiber Optics, Lineman, CDL and OSHA combined course in the spring. For more information, contact Sally Porter at (606) 218-1276 or email [email protected]

BSCTC is registering students for the fall semester. For more information and/or to register, call 1 (855) GO-BSCTC or visit Classes start August 15.

By Jennifer Little


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