By Jeff Muto, Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer, Veriforce and Todd Schlekeway, President & CEO, NATE
With a high 5.9% unemployment rate, and another whopping 95% of employed Americans considering changing jobs, or willing to move industries for the right position, the U.S. job market is at best unstable.
This wave of employee dropouts has been dubbed the “Great Resignation.” And it can be directly attributed to high burnout rates from sitting at home staring at a computer screen for 18 months; the desire for greater autonomy and flexibility; and ultimately, the search for happiness and greater meaning in our lives — and at work.
At the same time, Telecom is seeking passionate workers who want to transform the world with cutting-edge tech, spend their days outside in nature, close the digital divide across America, prove instrumental in winning the 5G race with China, and seek greater professional heights – literally.
As the Telecom industry rolls out 5G, or the fifth-generation technology standard for broadband cellular networks, we’ll need as many as 20,000 additional skilled workers to make it happen.
The Telecom industry’s needs may just be the antidote to America’s workforce crisis.
The Promise of 5G for skilled workers
Simply put, 5G is transforming the world. For the young workforce, building the next generation of connectivity offers a unique proposal: To be on the ground floor of America’s latest digital revolution. One that promises to close the divide between urban centers and small towns and deliver better communication functionality across the U.S.
Telecom’s next generation of skilled workers must be:
- Wicked smart. Having to troubleshoot and then repair technical gear 300 ft. in the air, while a simple harness connects you to a telecom tower and thousands of locals wait on you to resume their connectivity, all requires major brain power — and composure while in the clouds.
- Serious professionals. Regardless of where the technician works, be it the hills of Tennessee or the heart of New York City, telecom workers must demonstrate their knowledge and have passed practical field testing before deployment, including National Wireless Safety Alliance (NWSA) professional trade certification.
- Diverse in skill set. Not every telecom worker is a tower climber. Unlike previous generation rollouts, 5G work necessitates the installation of small radio equipment and antennas on nearly every streetlamp and traffic light in addition to tower antennas. Workers that are afraid of heights, or don’t want to travel can still find their niche in 5G work. As equipment specifiers, infrastructure designers, distributed antenna systems and fiber technicians.
The Next Hurdle: Upskilling tomorrow’s 5G workforce
Not simply “another G,” when fully functional, America’s 5G network is expected to completely disrupt the workplace by making 3D holograms, digital whiteboards and new types of collaboration among remote teams not only possible, but probable.
To realize this, we’ll upskill another 20,000 telecom workers in the next few years. The task is great. Our organizations, NATE: The Communications Infrastructure Contractors Association and Veriforce, together with others like NWSA and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), are meeting the challenge head on. Here’s how:
- NATE curriculum development. A turnkey, 10-week curriculum for tower technicians, currently under development as part of the Association’s workforce development strategic initiative, will ultimately provide community colleges and technical institutes an opportunity to start programs. The curriculum will include embedded certifications so program graduates are ready to pass the NWSA test to credential as a professional tower technician.
- Community college training programs. Currently working with multiple community colleges and technology institutes in targeted regions of the country, NATE deploys their in-person telecom training program to upskill local workers where they are.
- Worker passports. Whether worker training happens in a NATE class, or at the employer level, Veriforce tracks and monitors worker training, assigning credentials to 50,000+ workers in a worldwide database to ensure when workers move jobs and access new sites, they’re able to take their credentials with them.
Doing the physical work necessary to make 5G a reality tomorrow is a source of great pride, both for the skilled workforce and our greater nation, the way grandpa felt about the bridge he helped construct over the local river and his tour of service overseas in WWII.
Vertical career opportunities in telecom are abound. We’re waiting for your ring, America. Let us know you’re on the way up.
Watch the trailer of “Vertical Freedom,” NATE: The Communications Infrastructure Contractors Association’s new feature-length documentary that chronicles the lives of six communications infrastructure professionals here.
 https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/empsit.pdf; https://www.cnbc.com/2021/06/29/more-people-plan-to-quit-as-return-to-work-plans-go-into-effect-.html