Understanding the new ACMA competency requirements for Registered Cablers

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In July 2012, the Australian and Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) implemented changes to the competency requirements for Registered Cabling Providers (Cablers) to address concerns within the cabling industry that Cablers may not have the appropriate skills required to perform specialised cabling work (ie beyond the scope of a base Registration) for the current and emerging cabling environment. Much of this is being driven by the introduction of the National Broadband Network (NBN), where customer telecommunications systems are increasingly becoming IP/ethernet-based and therefore must function over higher data rate capable customer cabling.

The changes – to be effected over a 2-year phase-in period – will require Cablers to have the necessary competencies in whatever specialist field of cabling they are working in, by 1 July 2014.

Up until now, cabling work such as optical-fibre, coaxial and structured customer cabling could be installed by Open Registered Cablers without any specialist cabling competencies (although these competencies were readily available and Cablers were encouraged to acquire them through further education). However, specialist competencies will no longer be voluntary as of July 2014.

Put simply, if you work on specialist customer cabling, you’ll need proven competency in that speciality. If you don’t work in a particular speciality, you won’t need that competency. For example, if you install category 5, 6 or 7 structured data cabling systems, you will need a Structured Cabling competency added to your Open Registration. If you only install telecommunications cabling, such as 25-pair block cabling, your base Open Registration will cover this and you won’t need additional competencies. Note however, that if you decide to install structured cabling in the future, you will need to acquire the Structured Cabling competency beforehand.

Consider the following scenarios that best describe your current circumstances to determine what you need to do before July 2014:

  • Open Registration with no endorsements

If you’re not going to work on any specialty customer cabling, you won’t need to do anything extra. Simply maintain your base Open Registration by renewing it and it will remain as-is. If however, you will be working on structured, optical fibre or coaxial cabling after 1 July 2014, you’ll need to acquire the appropriate competencies through training and/or assessment before 1 July 2014.

  • Open Registration with Cat 5/Structured Cabling, Optical Fibre or Coax endorsements

Holding any of these old endorsements means you won’t necessarily need any additional training in that specialty, as they are equivalent to the corresponding new competencies. When you renew your Registration after July 2014, your current endorsements will be listed as competencies. If you only have one or two of these endorsements and wish to do other specialist cabling in the future, you’ll need to acquire the relevant competencies through training and/or assessment.

  • Open Registration with Aerial and/or Underground endorsements

These endorsements are largely safety related and are equivalent to the corresponding new competencies. When you renew your Registration after July 2014, your current endorsements will be listed as competencies.

  • Restricted Registration

Restricted Cablers must attain the new Broadband data cabling competency before July 2014 if they want to perform specialist cabling work. This new competency is for residential premises point-to-point work only and is not a competency such as the Structured competency applied to the Open Registered Cablers.

  • Lift Registration 

Lift Registration is an ‘add-on‘ to an electrical qualification that applies to cabling work in the immediate area of the lift-well only. So unless you’re working on broadband point-to-point data cabling within the lift well as well, your current registration will remain in place after July 2014.

Differences between competencies and endorsements

Endorsements were acquired previously through successful completion of specific training modules for a customer cabling, eg NTC194 for Structured Cabling endorsement. These module-based programs will still be recognised by the ACMA until 30 June 2014.
From 1 July 2014, to acquire competencies, Cablers will have to be assessed by Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) as ‘competent’ for cabling specialties.

Recognition for prior training (RPL)

RPL processes and decisions are the domain of RTOs and are not handled by the Cabling Registrars.

RTOs are required by the ACMA to ensure that credit for prior learning – be it vendor or classroom-based training or industry experience – is accurately mapped to the relevant competency units. RPL credits for specialist competency units can be granted using standard RPL processes; however application for these must be made on an individual basis directly with a suitably qualified RTO.

Cablers with vendor certification wishing to acquire their Structured Cabling competency will need to advise their certification details to an RTO as part of their RPL assessment.
Moving forward, vendors will have to align the training in their certification programs to competencies if they want them ACMA-recognised, and will have to establish working relationships with RTOs, as only RTOs will be able to issue formal certifications and statements of attainments.

Where to get training?

If you recognise that you need further training to secure the relevant competencies, you’ll find a list of approved training providers in each state at the BRCA website here.
Once you complete your training in a cabling specialty, you can upgrade your registration simply by completing an ‘Upgrade of Registration Levels’ form which can be downloaded from here. Complete the form and submit it along with your new Statement of Results to BRCA via fax or email. A new updated card and a certificate will then be sent to your postal address.
The cost for a new card is $22, unless you’re upgrading your registration at the same time as renewing, when there is no additional fee for the upgrade.