Prior to the pandemic, we already viewed our home internet connection as important. Fast forward to the past year and as an industry, we worked to try to plug holes in coverage as quickly as possible, and in many cases, wireless was the best solution. Government programs are stimulating even more projects across the country. Where will all the tower technicians come from to do all this work?
The industry estimates 1500 new tower technicians will be required over the next 5 years. How do tower companies recruit and train workers to fill positions across the country?
That was the theme of a panel yesterday at the annual meeting of STAC, Canada’s Structure, Tower and Antenna Council, STAC 2021, hosted by Isabela Jimenez from the CWTA, and including Jeanne Piercey from TEP Canada, Rob Harper of Morrison Hershfield, Derek Gordon of VIAVI Solutions, and Maguessa Morel-Laforce from CWTA.
Labour force job openings pose a challenge in the Canadian tower industry, and STAC has created a new Industry Workforce Development Committee, dedicated to finding ways to attract and maintain the skilled workers the industry needs. Yesterday’s session looked at efforts to combat worker shortages by attracting talent, working with the provinces, and developing a tower tech training curriculum.
In the US, there are a few colleges that help train workers to attain a National Wireless Safety Alliance (NWSA) credential. Such a certification does not yet exist in Canada, but it is being explored to help fill the gap in the labour force.
The modular curriculum for an entry level position would include an intro to telecom tower work; climbing; measurements; construction; electrical and RF. A great deal of focus is on worker safety, training students to understand electrical safety, indoor versus outdoor cabling, rigging, types of knots, signaling to co-workers, and risks from wild-life, mixing classroom and lab work. The courses are designed to enable graduates of the program to be ready to start work on their first day.
With the roll-out of 5G, the industry will need even more engineers and technicians. STAC is working to gain support from provinces to achieve certification for Telecom Tower Technician as a recognized trade.
Hopefully, governments will take the appropriate steps to help identify the field for young people looking for a trade in a growing industry.
It is a great opportunity. New recruits are desperately needed for companies to implement all of the major capital projects that are on the horizon for the foreseeable future.