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Communication is still king

NSN has announced that executive chairman Jesper Ovesen will step down from his role upon the closing of Nokia's transaction with tech giant Microsoft

Brendan O’ Mahony, chief executive of the Institute of Telecommunications Professionals (ITP) talks about key issues affecting telecommunications workers.

Every industry has its challenges and opportunities.  This polarisation is certainly stretched during an economic downturn.   In the midst of opinion, advice and media noise, it’s difficult to know whether to ride the storm or make significant advances to escape it.  Telecoms has always been fast-paced, reliant on brave business decisions and talented teams to drive it forward. But can recession temper these attributes?

Our concern has always been to promote professional development across the telecommunications industry but that means that we have to move where the marketplace is moving. Professional development can sometimes depend on a buoyant market and clearly the key issue of the moment is job security. Professionals are looking to keep the job they are in, move to current areas of demand or are seeking new positions due to redundancy.

Comparatively though, the communications and technology industry has been fairly resilient over the last year.   There have been redundancies but nothing like the scale seen in the turn of this century.  Technology businesses have been operating in a streamlined way since the dot com bubble burst and we have seen start ups, acquisitions and mergers over the last twelve months -demonstrating a continuingly dynamic marketplace.

One of the recruitment agencies we work closely with is Hays Telecoms.  Its managing director, Lee Chant, tells us that demand for telecoms expertise remains strong in the current climate, with business and core networks, content and media, mobile and wireless, all experiencing steady recruitment activity. High on the list of desirable skills is the demand for individuals with experience of transmission, provisioning and planning on fibre networks.  People skills and advanced technologies are being used to streamline networks and follow best practice in and around transmission of the data to make networks more productive.

There is also a requirement for internal security jobs within companies and their Firewalls. Companies are looking at their current networks to ensure they are accurately mapped – central to this enhancement is fibre optimisation and the design of the most efficient circuits to execute customer requirements and service.  Network optimisation is very much a buzz phrase around the industry at the moment.

The key skill sets that employers are looking for in networks jobs are engineering based: knowledge of products such as LAN, WAN, Cisco and Juniper are particularly sought after while other networks (Extreme, 3Com etc.) and infrastructure skills (Cat5e, Cat6) are also sought after.

There is also demand for specialists with experience of Juniper, Cisco, Huawei, Ciena and more, driving environments such as IP, MPLS, VPLS, ATM, Frame Relay, SDH, PDH and DWDM. Other buoyant skill sets include TDM, VoIP, SIP, H.323, IMS, Intelligent Networks, CPE, Ethernet and Dark Fibre.

Linked to the core networks is the content and media side of telecoms. The race is on for companies to corner the market in the quad play arena, namely providing the four in one home broadband, TV, telephone and mobile services. Investment in research and development has generated mobile and wireless jobs, as companies strive to gain a comparative advantage over their competitors

Another area of growth is the field of technology to support collaboration, video-conferencing and web-conferencing. Knowledge of Cisco and Tandberg are proving to be the most in demand skills, as well as general IP networking experience relating to conference bridges. Employers are looking for professionals with web-based video conferencing experience, using sophisticated telepresence technology. The advantage of these products is that they save money and are environmentally friendly.

Technology is now an inextricable part of business and lifestyle behaviour.  The public have not stopped using their mobile phones and they’ve certainly not stopped using the internet.   Moreover, technology is being used to support commerce during the downturn rather than being cut back on.  An example of this might be companies using video conferencing instead of attending meetings, therefore shaving significant sums off travel cost and wasted time.

Yet, despite the demand for technology and communication services, each individual in this sector is being called to task.  Naturally then, telecoms businesses are looking to retain top staff and each employee is being assessed for the value they bring to the corporate table. As a service to our members we have recently launched a professional registration programme in collaboration with the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET). The primary aim is to raise professional standards across the ICT sector in the UK.  Those that qualify gain a widely recognised and respected qualification.

Achieving professional recognition demonstrates a commitment to the industry and the role in hand in addition to showcasing higher standards and portfolio of relevant skills.  This process demands that the individual keep up to date with industry developments and becomes actively involved in Continuous Professional Development.

The benefit to the individual is certified recognition of their competence and knowledge, with potential reward in terms of promotion, pay prospects and keeping themselves invaluable to any employer.  In turn, the employer benefits by having professionally registered staff because it sends a message to your customers that your workforce is skilled and competent. Additionally, the more qualified staff an employer has, the greater the chance of securing business as part of the bidding process for larger client projects.

The ITP was established over 100 years ago when telecommunications was a wholly new industry.  Our aim has always been to support professionals and businesses as well as share best practice in the ICT industry.  Our panel discussions seminars are set up to debate key industry issues and together with our partners, find solutions.

The industry as a whole should be looking towards new innovations, investing in next generation access, technologies and efficiencies.  It will take talent, keen minds and committed teams to bring theory to reality.

David Leen from Expand Recruitment, a specialist in communications, media and IT, tells us that every prospective employee must be fully aware that employers are looking for the very best and mediocrity is not an option.  Each CV should shine with achievements and up-to-the-minute relevant skills.  Employees too should be adaptable to the different skill sets and attitudes now in demand within a telecommunications business.

Every business and every individual within this industry must have a compelling story to tell.  I would encourage individuals and corporations across the telecoms market to look at what makes them stand out from the crowd.  This is the time particularly for individuals to develop their skills and talents. It is not the time to cut back on training and skill development.  Being the best and having the best teams are the credentials for staying on top”.

Brendan O’ Mahony is chief executive of the Institute of Telecommunications Professionals (ITP)


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