The wireless industry needs to better promote itself and its job opportunities. That’s one of the conclusions so far from the Broadband Infrastructure Deployment Job Skills and Training Opportunities Working Group, a subset of the FCC’s Broadband Deployment Advisory Group. During a meeting on Tuesday at the FCC, working group Vice-Chair Rikin Thakker, said forecasts predict 120 million workers in the country will need to be re-skilled in the next 10 years. Thakker is vice president of telecommunications and spectrum for the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council. He also teaches several courses in the Master’s in Telecommunications program at the University of Maryland.
The group found in discussions with educators, government agencies, students and wireless and wireline employers, the telecom industry needs to overcome bad perceptions. A big one is the industry is considered by some to have, “unattractive compensation, salary and benefits for a tough job,” said Thakker. “There’s also a lack of awareness of opportunity in this field,” he said.
Demand is so great for skilled wireless infrastructure workers right now that some are willing to job hop for one dollar more an hour in pay, said Leticia Latino, CEO of Neptuno/SmartTecPort and chair of the working group.
“The [telecom] workforce is experiencing a broadband identity crisis,” she explained, adding that employers are not always aware of available training grants and apprenticeship programs. Telecom workers don’t always understand how to advance their career path and some struggle to explain what they do for a living, Latino emphasized.
BDAC member and WIA President/CEO Jonathan Adelstein asked rhetorically if federal agencies, beyond the FCC, understand how wireless jobs differ from others. The Commission knows 5G will create five million jobs, according to the association executive. “But if we don’t have workers in place for our industry,” jobs in other industries, “won’t get created,” he said. Uber and Netflix benefitted from the profit and market capitalization generated by 4G, Adelstein cited as an example. Agencies need to know getting 5G built will benefit the country’s overall economy, he stressed.
Thakker responded that workers consider most telecom field jobs seasonal and temporary and they’re, “not looking at the benefits package beyond the hourly wage.” This needs to change, he explained. The industry needs to make clear how workers can advance, “so they realize they don’t need to keep climbing towers” forever, he emphasized.
Latino said Ericsson told the group that now, a climber needs to be electronically savvy. “Before, radios were on the ground. Now, you need a guy who can troubleshoot at height.”
By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief
December 4, 2019
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