Like many of the skilled trades, the communications infrastructure industry finds itself confronted with a workforce shortage at a time when generational type investments are being made by the federal government to bring wireless and broadband connectivity to unserved and underserved regions of the country. In a comprehensive survey commissioned by NATE: The Communications Infrastructure Contractors Association, our members identified a workforce shortage of 14,693 workers, with approximately 70% of the workers needed being field-based tower technicians, foreman, and construction managers. 

Against this backdrop, NATE’s Workforce Development Committee, which includes some of the industry’s top subject matter experts, completed a rigorous, 7-course Telecommunications Tower Technician 1 (TTT1) curriculum package that will be utilized to scale programs at community colleges and technical schools throughout the country. 

The NATE-developed turnkey TTTI curriculum includes the following courses: 

  • Introduction to the Telecommunications Industry
  • Telecom Safety & Safe Practices (Part 1)
  • Wireless Industry Best Practices (Part 11)
  • Telecom Installation & Maintenance
  • Telecom Antennas and Lines
  • Telecom Structure, Construction, Modification and Maintenance
  • National Wireless Safety Alliance TTTI Exam Preparation

Additionally, the TTTI curriculum also includes the following embedded certifications built into the courses:

  • First Aid/CPR
  • OSHA 10
  • RF/EME
  • Fall Protection
  • NCCCO Telecom Rigging
  • Defensive Driving

A major program outcome of NATE’s TTT1 Program is for the students to successfully pass the National Wireless Safety Alliance (NWSA) TTT1 ANSI (American National Standards Institute) accredited trade credential assessment and receive their official worker certification card. The NWSA TTT1 credential will provide hiring companies confidence that the student has met the standards expected of a safe and ready work employee.


The NATE TTT1 Program will be utilized for the first time this spring/summer at three schools in the state of Ohio through a partnership the Association brokered with the Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation. Through this innovative partnership, the state of Ohio has provided initial grant funding for Hocking College (Nelsonville, Ohio), North Central State College (Mansfield, Ohio), and Vanguard-Sentinel Career & Technology Center (Fremont, Ohio) to launch the programs. Additionally, NATE member companies from the industry have committed to providing supplemental financial resources and in-kind contributions to ensure the programs are equipped with state-of-the-art training towers, PPE equipment, and other technology and materials necessary to equip students for success.


It is an exciting time for the industry with the TTT1 program curriculum currently being implemented in these Ohio schools. NATE believes these programs will move the needle on the industry’s workforce needs by providing training courses in a rapidly growing industry without incurring college debt by the students in the courses. NATE commends the State of Ohio for its leadership and plans to utilize the Buckeye State as a model to emulate to launch more programs around the country. 

NATE’s comprehensive workforce survey also revealed the fact that there is a lack of awareness in mainstream America about the communications infrastructure industry, specifically when it comes to the professional opportunities and career pathways available. To tackle the awareness issue head-on and publicize the industry to mainstream America, NATE placed its “money where its mouth is” by investing heavily in the production of a feature-length movie.

Vertical Freedom, produced by Storybuilt Media in collaboration with NATE, is a feature length documentary film highlighting six diverse tower climbers who overcome personal struggle and everyday danger to perform extraordinary work at extremely high levels to connect us all. The world premiere of Vertical Freedom was held on February 22, 2022, in Las Vegas, Nevada. 

Representatives from NATE and Storybuilt Media are currently working with a Los Angeles-based entertainment sales agency to market the film to the prominent streaming platform distributors as well as the major market film festivals that are taking place later this year. NATE is excited about the future of the movie and its potential to elevate awareness of the industry and careers in the public conscious. To view the official movie trailer for Vertical Freedom, visit NATE’s official YouTube channel. For more information on Vertical Freedom, visit the official website at


NATE is committed to continuing to invest in strategic workforce developments to grow a future pipeline of skilled and safe workers that will be needed to help the United States achieve its goals of simultaneously closing the digital divide and bringing 5G connectivity to enterprises, consumers, and citizens. 

About the Author:

Todd Schlekeway is president & CEO of NATE: The Communications Infrastructure Contractors Association, a non-profit trade association dedicated to providing a unified voice for companies in the diverse tower and communications infrastructure construction, service, and maintenance industries. For more, visit

Modern Contractor Solutions, June 2022
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