Workforce development is key for a 5G future

The US wireless industry could need 20,000 additional technicians to make 5G a reality, NATE discuss the different ways it is trying to boost recruitment and skills

Read this article to learn:

  • What NATE is doing to support workforce development
  • Specific programmes for millennials and veterans
  • Legislation being supported to improve resources for the wireless industry
  • Social media campaigns you can get involved in

One of the significant challenges facing the wireless and broadcast infrastructure industries is the shortage of a properly trained and qualified workforce. That workforce will be expected to possess the diverse skill set necessary to produce the expansion of universal broadband, public safety and ubiquitous 5G coverage across North America, while repacking the broadcast spectrum. It is estimated that the industry could need up to 20,000 additional technician workers to meet current and future deployment demands. 

The National Association of Tower Erectors (NATE), an organisation consisting of over 885 member companies that construct, service and maintain hundreds of thousands of communications towers, distributed antenna systems (DAS) and small cell networks throughout the United States and nine other countries, has been leading on the front lines of this battle and workforce development has emerged as a top priority for the Association.

The Association’s commitment in this arena is reflected by the establishment of the NATE Workforce Development Group. The mission of this group is to create awareness and provide information of the many career opportunities in the telecommunications industry to individuals. Through partnerships, the NATE Workforce Development Group will enable and facilitate educational opportunities to individuals who are seeking a new vocation/occupation.

Promoting the profession through strategic third party outreach

The last several years, NATE officials have conducted workforce development meetings and forged relationships with representatives from third party, national advocacy organisations including the Association of American Community Colleges (AACC), Association for Career and Technical Education (ACTE), Capitol Tech University, League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), National Urban League, National Association of the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council (MMTC). During the meetings, NATE focused on educating these organisations on the career opportunities available in the wireless and broadcast industries to help promote the profession and recruit a pipeline of workers into the industry.

NATE is also a proud partner of the Warriors4Wireless organisation that is bridging the gap between the demand for trained and deployable wireless technicians, and the thousands of qualified service men and women eager to transfer the skills they’ve learned in the military. Warriors4Wireless provides training, advanced certification and transitional support, giving veterans the building blocks they need for an exciting and fulfilling career in the telecommunications industry.

NATE facilitates training to develop and grow the industry’s workforce

A major component of workforce development is the abundance of training available in the industry to develop and grow a skilled workforce. NATE facilitates high quality training by providing best practices guidelines, standards and subject-matter expertise to ensure that minimum benchmarks are established in training curriculum. Some of the training pathways and programmes available to industry workers include:

– Employer-based training programmes

– Private training companies

– Telecommunications industry registered apprenticeship programmes

– Community colleges/technical institutes

The NATE EXCHANGE also continues to be a “go-to” website platform for tower construction and maintenance companies and individual tower technicians to gain access to training courses in the wireless and broadcast infrastructure industries. The EXCHANGE is a valuable benefit as NATE member companies qualify for discounted rates on designated training courses offered on the website portal. To access the NATE EXCHANGE, visit www.natehome.com/nate-exchange today.

NATE members advocate for workforce development priorities in Washington, D.C.

Over 70 representatives from NATE member companies recently converged in Washington, D.C. to participate in the Association’s inaugural Congressional Fly-In event on Capitol Hill. On Wednesday, May 15, 2019, NATE members demonstrated their grassroots prowess by participating in approximately 130 individual meetings with Members of Congress and their respective policy staff.

During the meetings, NATE members advocated for the industry’s workforce development priorities, including support of the bipartisan Communications Jobs Training Act of 2019 legislation sponsored by Rep. Dave Loebsack (D-IA) and Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK). This priority legislation would appropriate $20 million per year for three fiscal years to develop classroom and field-based curriculum and certificate programmes at community colleges, vocational institutes and military organisations to attract and train a pipeline of workers to build, deploy and maintain the next generation networks and related infrastructure that is so vital for a connected future.

Additionally, apprenticeships are tailor-made for our industry and NATE has endorsed the following workforce development legislation that has been introduced in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House:

– S.951 – Apprenticeship Hubs Across America Act of 2019

– H.R.1995 – Apprenticeship Hubs Across America Act of 2019

Professionalising the workforce through NWSA Certification

NATE’s commitment to workforce development is also highlighted in the Association’s investment in providing the initial round of seed funding to support the launch of the National Wireless Safety Alliance (NWSA). NWSA is a 501(c) (6) assessment and certification organisation that provides nationwide, portable worker credentials to tower technicians at progressive worker categories in order to ensure continued excellence and professionalism in the industry. After workers receive training to become a tower technician, companies have an opportunity to ensure that their workers obtain NWSA certification credentials. Workers, regardless of their training pathway, will ultimately be required to take a standardized NWSA knowledge and field-based assessment. The NWSA certification card is a source of pride for industry workers and will ultimately raise the bar on safety and quality.

Attracting millennials to a rewarding career in wireless

A career in wireless offers enormous opportunities and NATE is aiming its marketing efforts to specifically target the millennial demographic in order to promote the profession as a career path and highlight these tremendous opportunities, NATE has developed a workforce development brochure to assist the Association’s member companies with their own recruiting and hiring efforts.

NATE is also excited to follow-up the first three volumes of our popular Climber Connection video and social media campaign by unveiling Volume 4 of the video series throughout 2019.   The Climber Connection Volume 4 campaign was developed to help recruit prospective workers in to the industry and communicate the Association’s message directly to the industry’s workforce.  NATE encourages tower technicians and all wireless industry stakeholders to actively participate in Volume 4 of the series by posting the videos on their respective social media networks and platforms using the hashtag #ClimberConnection.

All Hands on Deck

In closing, workforce development is an all hands on deck approach that is going to require financial investment and engagement from organizations, companies and stakeholders representing every layer of the diverse wireless and broadcast infrastructure chain in order to recruit, hire and train the robust workforce needed to meet next-generation deployment demands.

Todd Schlekeway is the Executive Director of NATE. Todd can be reached by phone toll free at (888) 882-5865 and by e-mail at todd@natehome.com.

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