ECC Preparing Students for Careers in Fiber Optics

At PACE program signing, from left, Dr. Elvy Viera, ECC Dean of Community, Continuing Education & Workforce Development;  James Walker of RampUp America; ECC President Dr. Augustine A. Boakye; Derrick E. Law of Net Tarius Technology Solutions; and Garth Naar of Avatar Tech

ECC officials and RampUp America representatives at the signing ceremony


Essex County College is the lead partner in a state funded Fiber Optics Technicians Pre-Apprenticeship in Career Education (PACE) program. This partnership will create a pathway into the burgeoning telecommunications sector.

The College received a $502,998 New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development grant for the program, geared to enroll and train 45 historically underrepresented students and adult learners for the fiber optics industry.   

The first group of 15 students will begin classes for eight weeks at the College in July, said Dr. Elvy Vieira, Dean of Community, Continuing Education & Workforce Development. The students will also work as pre-apprentices in the fiber optics and broadband industry as part of their training. The initiative is known as Fiber Optic Careers Unlock Success (FOCUS), she said.

Dr. Vieira said that in order to make the initiative a success, the College joined forces with RampUP America, Inc. RampUp has a collaborative alliance with the Minority Business Enterprises NetTarius Technology Solutions, LLC, and Avatar Tech LLC, both Newark-based networking infrastructure firms. These companies will offer pre-apprenticeship positions for the students.

Derrick E. Law, President of NetTarius, said the program will lead to industry credentials, apprenticeship opportunities, and eventual employment. “This program is ideal for those starting out in fiber optics and for career advancement. The industry is growing tremendously. We are looking at an increase of 400,000 jobs in the field over the next few years.”

Mr. Law said it is important for people to have stackable credentials in order to move up in the industry. “That’s what RampUp is about. We want individuals to ramp up their credentials for career advancement.” He said the goal of the program is really focused in four areas:

  • Creating a pathway to certifications
  • Pre-apprentice training
  • Paid apprenticeship training
  • Full time job placement

ECC’s President, Dr. Augustine A Boakye, stated that the FOCUS program is a comprehensive plan of action covering training, work experience, connection to a Registered Apprenticeship, and ongoing support services.

The program was officially launched recently at a meeting and agreement signing on the College’s West Essex campus with ECC officials and RampUp America representatives.  Garth Naar from Avatar Tech, and James Walker from RampUp America, Inc., along with Mr. Law, attended the event.