The Top 2 Telecom Challenges: Skilled Workforce Availability and Network Quality and Reliability

The challenges cited in this blog were identified in a report conducted by the research team at Verdantix, an independent research and advisory firm with expertise in digital strategies for Environment, Health & Safety, ESG & Sustainability, Operational Excellence and Smart Buildings.

Veriforce partnered with Verdantix to interview 40 telecommunication executives from the top companies about the key challenges they expect to face and the digital strategies needed to overcome them. According to the study, the TOP 2 challenges facing telecom companies are: 

1. Skilled workforce availability. As many as 86% of company executives named skilled workers as the primary challenge facing the telecom industry.[1]

2. Network quality and reliability. Identified as the second-largest challenge facing the telecom industry today by 40% of firms.[2]

These results demonstrate the importance of skilled training programs and safety compliance in an industry where the demand for labor is rising while the availability of trained workers declines.

#1 Challenge:

Building and Engaging a Skilled Workforce in 2021

Even though new telecom workers can earn more than $70,000 a year without a four-year degree,[3] skilled workforce availability was still identified by three-quarters of telecom companies as the primary challenge facing the industry.[4]

This shortage of workers can be attributed to:

  • Multiple generations of young people choosing traditional 4-year college over trades and apprenticeship education.
  • The aging out of the baby boomer generation that are retiring at an increasing rate.
  • Rapid advancement of telecom technology that’s broadening the spectrum of required technical skills.
  • The proliferation of the connected network and the necessary build-out requiring a technical workforce.

While larger organizations are investing in more in-house training, it is often cost-prohibitive for smaller contractor organizations. Government organizations and associations such as The U.S. Department of Labor (DoL), Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and North American Technician Excellence (NATE) are partnering on initiatives to help fill the skills gap and introduce telecom career opportunities to upcoming professionals.

Telecommunications Industry Registered Apprenticeship Program (TIRAP)

Known as a time-tested approach to training and developing skilled labor, apprenticeships have been a mainstay of the U.S. workforce since the country’s inception. Apprenticeships like TIRAP allow telecom employers to recruit and develop a highly-skilled workforce specific to the industry and are seen as great worker retention tools, as 94 percent of all apprentices continue employment after completing their apprenticeship. Of course, challenges in hiring apprentices can be significant as well, including the time commitment involved and for both those learning and those conducting the on-the-job training.

Community College Training Programs

The FCC and NATE are partnering with community colleges around the country to build awareness of the career opportunities within the telecom industry and set up certification programs. 

#2 Challenge:

Network Quality and Reliability

Even though new telecom workers can earn more than $70,000 a year without a four-year degree,[3] skilled

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated digitization progress forward as millions of workers transitioned to remote work overnight. Workforces must now be able to access their work networks and tools from anywhere at any time, and telecom companies must be able to ramp up the delivery of reliable systems needed to support this new flexibility. 

It’s no wonder network quality and reliability were identified as the second-largest challenge facing the telecom industry today by almost half of telecom firms. The pressure to meet the expectations of customers for uninterrupted service is ever-rising as companies rely on the internet, cloud, and mobility services to operate and stay competitive. 

The simultaneous rise in cyber breaches is another threat to ensuring uptime. Telecom companies now have a heightened responsibility to implement robust security measures against malware and other types of cyberattacks in order to protect the data hosted on their networks.

To maintain network quality and reliability, telecom businesses should consider a series of best practices as solutions: 

  • Upgrade IT and connectivity infrastructure. Networks are so complex. Telecom companies will have to scale-up to ensure their networks move such extraordinary amounts of data.
  • Manage and monitor your network seamlessly. Understand the composition of your existing network. Then, manage and monitor it to ensure uptime reliability. This will include creating firewalls, device monitoring, application management, ongoing maintenance as necessary, troubleshooting and more. 
  • Conduct job-specific training. Climbing a radio tower is not the same thing as threading a coaxial cable through a hole. Ensure each contract technician is trained in the necessary skill set, and make sure to track that.
  • Meet global cyber and privacy regulations. These include GDPR, HIPAA and other federal and local data privacy laws across the world. Remember, privacy laws follow a person’s country of residence, not where they are at the time of the breach.
  • Be mobile. Telecom businesses have to become increasingly mobile and be able to reach out to customers fast, and resolve any potential issues.

What do Telecom Execs Expect the Next 5 Years to Bring? 

We were curious too – so we asked. Partnering with the research team at Verdantix, we interviewed 40 telecom executives that represent firms making a combined $750 billion annually. 

Here are the types of insights the group revealed:

  • Top 5 challenges over the next five years
    (#1 and #2 are included above)
  • Significant opportunities for industry improvement related to risk management
  • The motivations behind investing in software to improve their contractor management
  • 6 steps to optimize contractor management

Download the Full Report

[1] [2] [4] [6] Verdantix Report, Veriforce
[3] https://venturebeat.com/2020/01/22/u-s-senate-committee-tackles-shortage-of-5g-tower-climbers/
[5] https://www.tirap.org/

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