UPDATE The Wireless Infrastructure Association plans to use new funding from the Department of Labor to build a bigger tent from which to draw apprenticeship applicants and industry suppliers, especially focusing on women, minorities and veterans. The association has been working to expand supplier and applicant diversity for a long time, so the grant is much appreciated, said WIA President/CEO Jonathan Adelstein.
Employers find veterans are safety and team-oriented, he explained, pointing to a success story. Under the contract, “we’ll have the ability to have innovative approaches to expand diversity.” Employers are also looking for a bigger pool to draw from to service big contracts. The Telecommunications Industry Registered Apprenticeship Program (TIRAP) is especially hoping to draw in more service companies, according to Adelstein, such as those that specialize in tower services, small cell and fiber work.
The association also plans to use some of the recently-announced multi-million-dollar contract to ease the paperwork burden on employers who choose to take part in the TIRAP. “Now, we’ll ask less of them and offer more assistance,” he said, especially in terms of access to untapped resources at the federal and state level. “This will be run by industry for industry to meet the precise needs of employers,” Adelstein told Inside Towers in an interview.
In general, the grant money “will help us do more” to meet the growing needs of the 5G workforce, Adelstein explained. Demands for skilled labor are expanding, and the builds for DISH and Citizens Broadband Radio Service will need labor as well.
“As it scales up, it will be more difficult to find workers,” he said, especially those who know RF. “5G is the most complex generation of wireless, with the most skills demanded of workers. 5G means “installing more antennas closer to end-users,” Adelstein explained. “This is a really complex RF environment.”
By Leslie Stimson, Inside Towers Washington Bureau Chief