Learning Alliance Corporation (LAC), a leader in trade education, is tackling the wireless workforce skills gap through industry partnerships that provide critical training and apprenticeship programs. These programs benefit the industry by making it possible for individuals to obtain the certified training needed to secure employment and begin their telecom careers.
Matthew Villanueva, a retired Army veteran with telecom experience, wanted a challenging career. After completing 150 training hours in programs like Competent Climber, Rescuer, and First Aid/CPR, Matthew is now employed as a Tower Tech II and attributes his success to LAC.
“Training put me ahead of others who were applying for the same position. I was able to start my employment as a Tower Tech II, rather than Tech I, which meant a higher salary.”
Philip White, also an Army veteran, completed 130 hours of training that gained him employment as a Foreman with SAC Wireless. Although White had some telecom experience while serving duty, he said the training helped him secure a higher salary. “My LAC experience was very hands on. It was easy to understand and gave me the courage to go out there, climb the towers and get my career started,” said White.
John Neufeld, also a military veteran, was looking for work outside of the standard 9 – 5 office job. Neufeld completed 130 hours of training in ten days and is now employed as a Tower Tech I at Capitol Towers.
Neufeld said, “The skills and knowledge that I’ve learned at LAC have helped improve the way I communicate with my team members. It’s very important to effectively communicate the importance of safety when I’m at the top of the towers every day. What I’ve experienced and learned at LAC has improved the recognition, respect, and promotion from my Employer.”
Partnerships with TIRAP, SAC Wireless, and Safety LMS have been essential to the evolution of programming that make it possible for people like Villanueva, White, and Neufeld to achieve successful careers. Likewise, the industry gains workers who are highly skilled and qualified to do their jobs from day one.
“As an academic institution solely focused on the wireless industry, our goal is to act as the glue that unites the industry needs with a professional development path for our veteran graduates,” said Cesar Ruiz, CEO Of Learning Alliance. “We continuously listen to feedback from employer partners to expand our curriculum to align out comes to financial sustainability for our graduates.”
WIA is the National Sponsor of TIRAP, a joint venture of telecommunications companies, industry associations, and the United States Department of Labor. Graduates of the program receive a national, industry-recognized credential that certifies occupational proficiency and provides opportunities for career advancement.
TIRAP’s mission is to enable the telecommunications industry to promote safety and enhance quality and advancement opportunities for the training and education of telecommunications workers to meet 5G network infrastructure installation and maintenance needs. It provides training uniformity across occupations and specialty training topics.
Learning Alliance, as the TIRAP pre-apprenticeship program provider, helps deliver TIRAP participants through its program, and focuses on outreach, recruiting, training and career placement of those served individuals with TIRAP sponsored employer-partners.
WIA President and CEO Jonathan Adelstein, said, “The need to make the telecommunications workforce safer was a cornerstone reason TIRAP was founded. TIRAP provides a framework for a systematic training approach which begins in the classroom and continues on the job. Apprentices learn from their mentors how to work safely and then practice what they learn by applying it to site-specific conditions.”
Adelstein also noted the U.S. vocational education system hasn’t been able to keep up with the pace of growth in the wireless industry.
“As the U.S. becomes more dependent on telecommunications networks, which the pandemic crisis has highlighted, the demand for wireless data is rising. A gap is growing between the current wireless workforce and the need for a larger, better trained number of workers with specialized skills to meet the enormous challenge of deploying 5G nationwide. Wireless occupations typically require in-the-field training, which is effectively accomplished through apprenticeship – an earn-while-you-learn model,” said Adelstein.
TIRAP’s partnership with LAC incorporates approved training and curriculum programs, strategies for long-term success, access to support services and future opportunities, and hands-on training that does not displace paid employees.
“TIRAP has been a fundamental part of our evolution process, and our students love the curriculum,” says Fred Arnold, LAC’s Director of Operations.
SAC Wireless, a Nokia Company, works with telecom carriers, tower owners, and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) offering turnkey services that support major network builds and upgrades, including 5G, 4G LTE, small cell and FirstNet.
Cris Challender, Head of Training and Development at SAC Wireless, said, “We don’t just talk safety, we train it, we enforce it, and we live it.” SAC trains roughly 450 new-hires and delivers training that supports over 2,000 certifications for existing employees annually.
Challender said the skills that Veterans acquire through LAC’s programs enable them to get to work faster, and subsequently advance faster. “It opens the door to multiple opportunities across SAC as they move from Associate Tower Tech, to Tower Tech II, to Tower Lead, and eventually to Tower Foreman,” said Challender. “Once at the Foreman level, the door to opportunities such as Superintendent, Operations Manager, Construction Manager, or Project Manager offer a new path for advancement.”
Challender also noted that LAC provides their organization with the best channel of acquisition of Veteran talent – a key priority for SAC in building skilled tower crews.
Safety LMS is an at-height safety training company that strives to train from real world experiences.
Benjamin Bowman, Director of Sales and Marketing, said his organization continuously updates their curriculum to stay ahead of upcoming standards. President JP Jones sits on several NATE boards, keeping the company at the forefront of industry standards.
“We also understand that there is a huge need for flexibility for training times which is why we are always continuing to expand upon our online and blended learning training courses,” said Bowman. “For instance, with recent COVID-19 restrictions, we created custom webinar-based instruction while still maintaining the high-quality training that the industry has come to associate with Safety LMS.”
Since May 2019, Safety LMS has partnered with LAC to train over 100 students and prioritizes quality over quantity. “We, as an industry, don’t just need bodies to make up the numbers, but we need people who know how to safely and professionally do the work,” Bowman said.
Bowman says that Safety LMS stands behind LAC’s curriculum. “The way LAC handles and understands the need for first-class training while showing the same desire to go above and beyond just checking boxes made us comfortable partnering with them,” said Bowman.
Tampa, Florida-based Learning Alliance was founded in 2009. For more information on how this company is leading the way in the telecom industry job shortage through education, or to become a partner company, go to www.mylearningalliance.com.