“The only limitations are the ones you put on yourself or that you allow others to put on you.” – OSUIT Fiber Lineman Instructor Tim Caudle.
HENRYETTA, Oklahoma – The Muscogee Nation Reintegration Program graduated nine participants in their first Fiber Optic Technician program on Sept. 10.
The program was a product of the partnership between the MN RIP and Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology in Okmulgee.
According to OSUIT Fiber Lineman Instructor Tim Caudle, this technician program was tailored specifically for RIP. Caudle teaches the class at the RIP facilities in Henryetta.
RIP Outreach Specialist Mark Harjo said the course had a completion rate of about 90 percent.
“It’s great to see these guys succeed,” Harjo said. “Some of them had initially left the program (RIP) but then once we told them about this and what they could do and how successful they could be, they came back to our facility to take this program (Fiber Optic).”
Caudle claimed the industry standard rate of graduation is low.
“If you start off with 15 students, you usually only graduate about 3-5,” Caudle said.
According to Caudle, the first portion of the course is climbing which is a determining factor in completion of the course. Other coursework includes learning how to drill holes in the pole, putting up support line and lashing fiber. The work is very demanding Caudle claimed and the participants need to be in good physical shape for this line of work.
“There were doing this non-stop for 6-8 hours a day,” he said. “It’s as bad as boot camp and its tough work. There is nothing in the gym can prepare you for this type of work.”
Caudle claimed his 45 years of experience in the industry has helped him develop a network of companies seeking this type of field of laborers with this certification.
Even before graduating, six of the nine students had the opportunity to head to Louisiana to assist the power crews restoring power for Hurricane Ida support and relief. They will be doing Fiber Optic work with Celtic Cable Construction as part of their internship.
Caudle said he tells his students the only limitations are the ones put on themselves or that they allow others to put on them.
“It’s great to see those guys follow through and keep their word to us and going out and making something of themselves,” Harjo said.
Dathan Leaf and Joseph Brown are Muscogee (Creek) citizens, RIP participants and graduates of the Fiber Tech Program. Leaf and Brown were part of the six who went to assist power companies in Louisiana.
Leaf had served six years in prison before coming to RIP. After participating in the program for a little over a year, he completed the welding course and exited the program.
“I was doing good you know, I had a good job and my own place,” Leaf said. “But then they started this new school, and it was supposed to be better than the last one.”
After speaking with the program, Leaf was able to rejoin the reintegration program for the purpose of completing this new training.
“Now I’m doing better than I was last time,” Leaf said.
Leaf claimed he was skeptical about taking the new program because he had an issue with job placement after completing the welding course, but with Caudle’s help, he was employed two weeks before graduating.
“It’s life-changing,” Leaf said.
After spending 28 consecutive months incarcerated, Brown joined RIP in early March. Since then, he has completed the construction technology course before completing the fiber optic tech course.
“I know how to frame now, I can do basic framing, I can read blueprints, all of that,” Brown said.
Brown claimed he did not believe he could get a job with his criminal record containing prior violent charges but the instructors from OSUIT, Tim Caudle and former instructor Brad Smith promised Brown job placement upon completion of the fiber optic training.
“That always kept me from getting a job,” Brown said. “They told me they saw how I did the construction technology really easy, and they told me that if I could do this, they could promise me job placement and I was all in.”
Brown claimed it’s a dream come true for himself and his three kids. Both men said they never expected to have an opportunity like this.
Brown said his advice for someone whose been in his shoes, is to “just do it.”
Leaf said he now believes he has a bright future and is ready to eventually “give back.”
For more information regarding the Fiber Optic Technician Program, please call the RIP at: 918-652-2676. The course is not limited to RIP participants; however, RIP clients are given preference.