Satellite Star

SkillsOne chats to Bianca Nichols, a first year telecommunications trainee and her training supervisor, Scott Davidson, as she installs a satellite dish for subscription TV.

She is an apprentice through Broadcasting Services Australia (BSA), a Registered Training Organisation chats about how to get accreditation to become a Foxtel technician.

About Bianca:

Bianca is from the Penrith/ Blue Mountains area and started her Certificate III in Communications with BSA12 months ago. She enjoys the work because it is peaceful working alone and there's always something new and different at each location.

The skills she uses each day are common sense, safety towards herself and safety towards her customer's house. While most jobs are fairly straightforward there are tricky situations that force her to solve a problem like anything to do with figuring out how to install the cables.

The main tool she uses is a standard cordless drill and she is competent with that and thinks everyone can use one.

Working at heights can be a bit scary but she always straps a harness to the roof at the start of each job. One does need to be able to lift a two-story ladder, which was quite tricky for Bianca at first but her strength has improved.

She's not even that scared of going into dark roovs with spider webs, rats and spiders! Her friends are proud of Bianca for doing this job but they are always pestering her for free Foxtel along with everyone else she meets.

One of the perks is Bianca does get free Foxtel!

About Scott:

Scott Davidson was originally a mechanic by trade but has spent 12 years in the telecommunications industry. He was a project manager for Austar, implementing their commercial plans and systems.

He was a subscription TV technician like Bianca, a contractor, a QA and worked for Jim's Antennas.

About Broadcasting Services Australia (BSA):

BSA provides high volume residential, commercial satellite, free to air, broadcast, telecommunications, power and microwave installation services across Australia. It has big contracts with FOXTEL, Telstra, Optus and others.

BSA specialises in the installation of subscription TV, telecommunications and other technical maintenance services to domestic customers throughout Australia. A well-established core part of our service offering is the installation of Pay TV services for Foxtel, Austar and Optus.

BSA has a workforce spanning the nation to provide the installation of satellite dishes, HFC cable and set-top boxes for these clients.

BSA has a number of initiatives focused on training the next generation of technical service people. First, BSA established a training company called BSA Advanced Learning (BAL). Having done that, BAL achieved accreditation as a registered training organisation - or RTO.

This sets BSA apart from most outsourced labour companies as the same organisation can train its own contractors as needed - critical for a growing business. To date BAL has employed more than 20 school leavers on two-year training contracts. This initiative helps replenish an industry with a well documented skills shortage.

BSA is committed to continually expand its trainee program which has to date been an outstanding success.

Scott Davidson oversees the trainee technician scheme at BSA- Foxtel Division. He looks after the day-to-day needs of trainees from OH&S to making sure the vans are clean. He also helped to train Bianca before he took up his current position about a month ago.

BAL (BSA Advanced Learning) trainees gain a telephone licence, do OH&S training, do a 'Working at Heights' course, sit an installer's exam and then do work experience with a qualified technician. They also get trained up on the cable network, power awareness and climbing awareness. As well as this Foxtel conduct a technician's exam and trainees are given a Foxtel 'standards and procedures' manual to abide by.

Trainees are then ready to go out on jobs all by themselves. After two years the trainee technicians gain their 'Certificate III in Communications'.

Potential trainees; Can't be scared of heights, don't need to have their HSC, can be any age or gender. Although the job is probably more suited to young people because of the physical nature of the work. After each job a QA Officer (Quality Assurance) assesses the trainee's work, making sure there is no damage to the building and that the customer is happy with the service. With the implementation of High Definition TV there will be further avenues for technicians to train and work throughout all states and territories in Australia.

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VJ Rodney Meier