Workforce development is an integral part of 5G deployment. That’s why the Wireless Infrastructure Association is holding the dinner titled: “Honoring Wireless Workforce Champions,” on October 1, in Washington, D.C.
Inside Towers had a chance to speak with Wireless Infrastructure Association President/CEO Jonathan Adelstein about the effort.
“The dinner is a fundraiser for our workforce development initiatives. All the proceeds [go] to benefit wireless education, training and apprenticeship programs through our non-profit WIA Foundation.”
Funds will go towards training and overhead through the Telecommunications Industry Registered Apprenticeship Program or TIRAP. Through its Telecommunications Education Center, TIRAP is providing one-on-one 5G training, he said. “Our members are finding it really helpful to get a baseline, deeper understanding of the ecosystem.” That includes 5G deployment training. “We have a variety of initiatives that we’re funding. We’re really excited about the need for getting these going and all the support we’ve gotten from so many policymakers and leaders in the industry to make it happen.”
Two honorees named so far are FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr and AT&T EVP Global Connections & Supply Chain, Susan Johnson. Carr, according to Adelstein, has made workforce development a central, top priority. “He recognizes the importance of having a workforce that’s trained, ready and safe to build 5G networks.” Carr’s been talking to other policymakers, including those at the Department of Labor, out in the field and internally at the Commission. Adelstein credits Carr for helping to get the FCC’s new workforce development working group for the Broadband Development Advisory Committee up and running.
Last year, Carr spearheaded the agency’s effort to streamline small cell siting. Now, he’s working on a similar project for macro towers, Adelstein told Inside Towers.
AT&T’s Susan Johnson, meanwhile, “has been the foremost advocate in the wireless industry at her level for training, education, diversity and inclusion,” says Adelstein. “She has a passion for ensuring that our supply chain is diversified with owners that include women-owned businesses, minority-owned businesses, veteran-owned businesses, small businesses. She’s really gone above and beyond the call of duty in trying to promote women in wireless [and] to make sure that we have children in high schools studying STEM education so they’re prepared for careers in the wireless industry” to make sure the industry is focused on the 5G workforce. Johnson controls a $70B wallet for spend on wireless infrastructure, including towers, according to Adelstein.
“The … brightest of our industry will all be in one room on one night, celebrating our successes, thinking toward the future, about how we can ensure we have the workforce we need,” Adelstein emphasizes.
Why is training so important for 5G deployment? Think of it as three legs of a stool. “You need infrastructure to transmit, you need spectrum to carry the data, and you also need a workforce to build out the network,” explains Adelstein. “Without all three, there’s no signal. We want to make sure that that third bit is in place. We spend a lot of our time on the infrastructure side and the spectrum side, but we’re finding labor shortages are really a top of mind problem that we’re hearing from our members and people in the field.”
It takes time to set up training programs and to actually do the training. It also takes support to do it, which is the purpose of the dinner, according to the association executive. “We think this is fundamental to winning the race to 5G. A lot of policymakers agree. That’s why we’re giving them an award at this event,” Adelstein emphasizes.
Expect to hear about more honorees soon. The top executives of both towercos and carriers are expected to participate. To learn more about the dinner and the workforce development programs, go to: WIA.org and listen to the Inside Towers’ “Tower Talks” podcast here.
By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief
August 20, 2019