This fall, Wake Tech will offer a Telecommunications Tower Technician program. It’s the first community college in North Carolina to do so and only the third in the U.S.
The college unveiled the new program in collaboration with Raleigh-based Tower Engineering Professionals (TEP).
The program is endorsed and supported by NATE: The Communications Infrastructure Contractors Association. It’s funded by Wake Works, and aims to prepare students for careers developing 5G infrastructure and moving wireless telecommunications technology forward. Wake Works provides money for tuition, books, fees, and uniforms for students accepted into apprenticeship programs.
“This is exactly what Wake Works was designed for – to bring new opportunities that lead to greater economic mobility for Wake County residents and a stronger workforce,” said Wake Tech President Dr. Scott Ralls.
Students in the program will be registered apprentices at TEP where they’ll receive classroom instruction and hands-on training. Topics include safety, rigging, fall protection, principles of electricity, fiber optics and wireless technology cell components. When they complete the program, they’ll earn a National Wireless Safety Alliance (NWSA) certification and be prepared to work on the installation, maintenance and repair of cellular, broadcast, utility, and public safety towers.
Tower Engineering Professionals estimates the company will need at least 150 new workers each year for climbing positions in the future. TEP CEO Andy Haldane called the program, “a great opportunity for potential employees to gain a leg up on competition as they enter the workforce and for us as a company to attract and retain new talent.”
“Our hope is to emulate this program across North America to help staff our current 18 offices and expedite expansion into additional regions,” explained Haldane. “This program allows us to share our knowledge and have a positive impact on the entire telecom community.”
“The rapid evolution of wireless technology, propelled by the conversion from 4G to 5G, has led to a major shortage in skilled tower technicians across the country,” says NATE Executive Director Todd Schlekeway. “Every day I get calls from companies in search of qualified technicians. NATE views community college programs like this one at Wake Tech as being vital to developing a future pipeline of skilled technicians that are necessary to accomplish North Carolina’s and the country’s ubiquitous connectivity goals.”
Tower technicians in North Carolina earn an average salary of $51,000 a year. In addition to NATE, the new Wake Tech program is supported by the National Wireless Safety Alliance, the Wireless Infrastructure Association and the Telecommunications Industry Registered Apprentice Program. Other colleges offering similar programs include Aiken Technical College in Aiken, SC and Southeast Tech in Sioux Falls, SD.