The National Cable Splicing Certification Board (NCSCB) recently introduced a national program to certify medium-voltage cable splicers. The program, an offshoot of a regional certification, the Mid-Atlantic Cable Splicing Certification Board, consists of a written exam followed by performance, or practical, exams.

To develop the program, the certification board involved union and non-union contractors, manufacturers, utilities, and engineering groups. The board also hired the services of the American Institute for Research, Washington, D.C., to perform a validation study and a job analysis, as well as offering help in constructing and validating the test instruments.

“If you're going to have a certification, you want to make it legally defensible in court,” says Steve Anderson, president and chair of the executive committee for NCSCB and director, National Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee. “In the two-and-a-half years that we've been working on this, we've talked to a lot of different groups — from engineering to utilities — and not one person has said, ‘I don't know why you're doing this.’ This is long overdue.”

The NCSCB will offer three separate certifications: the installation of medium-voltage, hand-taped splices and terminations, paper-insulated lead-covered cable (PILC), or lead certification. “All of the practical exams are separate,” Anderson says. “You can determine which of the practical exams that you want to take. What they have in common is that there'll be one written exam.”

A passing score on the written exam is required to continue on to the practical exams. The exams predominantly cover solid dielectric medium-voltage cable, but according to Anderson, with the changes to the U.S. infrastructure, more underground cable is being used for both distribution and transmission. Therefore, the certification will fall right in line with the re-cabling of the country.

The Board hopes that offering the standardized exams will take a burden off utilities, as well as some contractor and engineering firms. “This is a portion of the industry that does require a certain amount of skill and knowledge,” Anderson says. “There are too many people out there doing this work that can cause a lot of harm not only to equipment and machinery but also to individuals. It's very expensive for the utilities to have this done.”

Currently, the Board is trying to locate a third-party examiner to proctor the written exams. It will begin offering exams in Washington, D.C.; Phoenix; Ontario, Calif.; and possibly Detroit or Atlanta by August. Locations throughout the rest of the country will follow. Certification is still strictly voluntary but may soon become a de facto standard in the industry. “One thing people will be assured of is that once they get somebody with this certification, that person will have at least demonstrated that they know what's involved in this type of work,” Anderson says.