FCC Interviews the National Wireless Safety Alliance

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Recently the FCC’s Evan Swarztrauber interviewed Duane MacEntee, Executive Director of the National Wireless Safety Alliance (NWSA). They discussed the safety, certification, and coordination initiatives for tower climbers. The full text can be found hereInside Towers selectively edited key portions of the conversation.

Swarztrauber:  So, what is NWSA? For the uninitiated who are not familiar with the group: briefly, what does it do?

MacEntee: The National Wireless Safety Alliance is an organization that was formed to create assessment tools, basically tests and examinations that are based upon what the industry says is the baseline of knowledge and skill required for technicians to perform work. So, we’re an independent organization, a nonprofit that is intended to make sure that workers who come through either new to the industry or existing workers to level set the playing field if you will to make sure that there’s a baseline of proficiency in the industry. And that work is performed safely. Safety is a big part of our credentialing process.

Swarztrauber:  So, can you briefly touch on what things were like that kind of inspired you guys to put this thing together?

MacEntee:  It was more of an aggregated view of the industry back around 2013 and in the years surrounding 2013—that time frame, one or two years in front or back of that. We had a lot of fatalities and it garnered a lot of, in my opinion, proper attention by authority. You know, the fatality rate was very high. At one point, we were labeled as the most dangerous industry in the U.S. You don’t want to be number one in that regard. So what that forced [us] was industry leadership. We’re talking serious industry leadership at a very high level with the carriers, major contractors, and small contractors, tower owners alike came together in 2013 in Dallas and had what was known and what is known as a safety summit.

Swarztrauber:  And the difference there is that you are not just a single company that is determining the credentials. It is an independent body and it’s kind of a portable certificate. If I have an NWSA certificate from working, you know, in one region of the country, I can safely assume that if I go somewhere else and they see the certificate. They understand what that means. And just for the listeners who are thinking: what are certifications, sort of like, what are you certifying? Can you briefly describe some of the certifications that NWSA does and what that practically means from a worker perspective if they have this thing? What skills do they have?

MacEntee: the course of the last, let’s see, at the end of 2016 we launched our first two programs the Telecommunication Tower Technician 1 and Telecommunication Tower Technician 2, we like to say TTT-1 and TTT-2 just because it rolls off the tongue a little bit easier.

And it’s important to note that the NWSA is a component of a much larger industry initiative in terms of workforce development. You know there are others that, quite frankly, we share resources. There’s a limited pool of what we call subject matter experts who participate in developing these certifications. And when I say limited number, we have a broad number that actually come in the room representing carriers, tower owners, contractors of all different sizes. We have some lawyers in the room and educators as well. So, it’s actually a pretty good section, cross-section. But what that represents is that some of those same people are on kind of the front-end of workforce development as well in terms of setting the definitional components of what is a technician one, what is a technician two, and a lot of them follow the DOL/ETA guidelines in terms, that’s the Education and Training administration’s guidelines on apprenticeship development/career path development. So, we follow that kind of scheme to come into workforce development. Then the curriculum is developed through an arm of that of the industry, TIRAP. You’ve heard of TIRAP before.

Swarztrauber: That’s the Department of Labor’s apprenticeship program specifically for the tower industry.

MacEntee: And so their role in this is they’re on the front-end of that process helping define what are the components that need to be taught to that to a worker in that particular role that’s been defined by DOL. Then it goes into the training community, agnostic of whichever trainer, whether it’s an in-house employer training program, a third party training company, a community college or technical college providing the training that really isn’t the issue for us as a certification body once the individual is trained they can see a pathway now. There’s a ladder that they can climb, so to speak. No pun intended, I suppose, but maybe there is. But in that regard they can look at certifications that allowed them to grow into the industry and those certifications are held independent of any of those prior components that I just shared with you. They need to be because that’s what makes us so different in terms of this initiative versus anything that might’ve been tried in the past in the industry.

August 30, 2019   

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