Advances in wireless are changing the landscape and delivery models for industries as diverse as healthcare, financial services, higher education, agriculture, energy, aviation, utilities, public safety, government, and the military. NATE and its 800+ member companies are on the front lines in terms of deploying these next generation communications networks. This deployment of wireless technologies is vital to meet both our present and future broadband needs and society’s insatiable thirst for data consumption.
WIRELESS DATA USAGE
Think about this … according to CTIA, the Wireless Association, wireless data use has increased 238 percent over the past 2 years. This explosive data growth has led to an immense demand for more devices and related infrastructure. CTIA indicates that there are now more wireless devices than Americans, with about 1.2 devices for every person in the country. Also, at the end of 2016, a record 308,334 cell sites were in operation, representing growth of over 57 percent in the last 10 years. This number is poised to increase dramatically as the wireless industry densifies today’s networks and prepares for 5G, the next generation of wireless.
This intense demand created a scenario of simultaneous opportunity and challenges. A significant dilemma currently confronting the communications tower industry is the shortage of a properly trained and qualified workforce. A properly trained workforce possesses 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.
NATE leads on the front lines of this battle, and workforce development emerged as a top priority for the Association. Communications tower technicians are the backbone of the wireless ecosystem and a career in the industry offers enormous opportunities. NATE likes to promote the fact that in the communications tower industry, workers start at the top of the tower and work their way down as they gain experience and get promoted to other career paths available within their respective companies and organizations.
There are a variety of training pathways available to prospective tower technicians in order to enter the profession. A common path is through an employer-sponsored training program whereby the company hires a tower technician and then facilitates the training of the worker through their respective company’s internal training program.
THE TRAINING PATH
Many companies hire private industry training companies to train their new and existing workers. There are many great, private training company options available to employers to ensure tower technicians are equipped to conduct the job safely and efficiently. Additionally, apprenticeship programs, community colleges, and trade schools also recently emerged as other sources of tower technician training programs.
The following courses are typically required as foundational training for tower technicians:
- Authorized Climber
- Authorized Rescuer
- RF Safety
- OSHA 10 Hour
Tower Technicians must typically meet other baseline requirements which include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Valid U.S. Driver’s License
- Pass a background check
- Pass drug test
- Ability to lift up to 50 pounds
- Comfortable working at heights
- Height, weight, and fitness requirements—may be job specific
After workers obtain training to become a tower technician, companies have an opportunity to ensure that their workers obtain National Wireless Safety Alliance (NWSA) certification credentials. NWSA is a 501(c)(6) assessment and certification organization that provides nation-wide, portable worker credentials to tower technicians in order to ensure continued excellence and professionalism in the industry. Workers, regardless of their training path, will ultimately be required to take a standardized NWSA knowledge and field-based assessment. The NWSA certification card will be a source of pride for industry workers and raises the bar on safety and quality.
PROMOTING THE PROFESSION
In order to further promote the profession, NATE is strategically reaching out to the millennial demographic through the Association’s “Climber Connection” video and social media campaign. These cutting-edge videos focus on relevant industry topics and are an integral part of NATE’s workforce recruiting initiatives. View each volume of the “Climber Connection” video series on NATE’s YouTube channel.
The next time you utilize your smartphone to watch a YouTube video or stream a movie on Netflix, remember that tower technicians are on the forefront of making these next generation technologies and modern day conveniences possible. Opportunity awaits. Explore a fulfilling career as a wireless tower technician today!