The emergence of 5G will, of course, have a massive impact on communications and network infrastructure. But with new technology comes a need for a highly skilled workforce, and 5G is creating a serious shortage of workers with the necessary abilities. It could be a perfect storm of demand outpacing supply for the rollout of 5G infrastructure.
Qualified Workforce Needed Now and Beyond
The Wireless Infrastructure Association (WIA) recently published a whitepaper about the current shortage of qualified technicians in the wireless industry and how this gap will only grow larger without training and educational opportunities.
WIA President Jonathan Adelstein said, “The wireless industry is experiencing a major labor shortage and a skills gap. Wireless jobs are changing, and they are changing incredibly fast. We are hearing from most of our wireless infrastructure employers that they have a hard time filling positions with applicants that have the skills they need.”
Every wireless provider understands the pressure to build a skilled workforce. With the next generation of connectivity riding on 5G, every consumer and business that depends on wireless networks will be expecting providers to come through for them.
Attracting New Workers in a Modern Workforce
Todd Schlekeway, Executive Director of the National Association of Tower Erectors (NATE), at the South Wireless Summit discussed the attributes the modern wireless worker needs to have, going beyond technical skills to general intellect and social IQ. Schlekeway emphasized the need to reach younger workers like millennials and Gen Z, and using social media to speak to them in their medium. In an effort to show the potential of a career in towers and infrastructure, NATE has launched successful social media campaigns around hashtags like #ClimberConnection and #ClimberConversation to garner more engagement.
Carrie Charles, President of BroadStaff LLC, a telecom staffing firm, spoke at the same event about the challenges of developing a workforce despite the fact the 5G investment will yield more jobs. According to a report from Accenture, the wireless industry will invest up to $275 billion in 5G over the next seven years. This investment could bring as many as 850,000 jobs. This forecast supports the great opportunity in this growing industry but also makes identifying the right candidates that much more complex. Charles recommended being “real, flexible, and intentional during the hiring process” to ensure the applicants are the right fit and have the right skills for such a unique career path.
Addressing the Skills Gap
In addition to adding new workers to the industry, current technicians will require training to stay competitive in a 5G world and against younger workers not facing the same challenges of adapting to yet another new technology. The industry’s most recognized groups are addressing these needs with expanding educational opportunities. NATE has created training courses through their National Wireless Safety Alliance (NWSA), while The Wireless Infrastructure Association (WIA) has developed the Telecommunications Education Center (TEC) to deliver technical training and certification, including one on 5G.
Integrators and builders involved in the rollout of 5G will be looking for candidates with these new certifications, who have demonstrated their commitment to remaining at the forefront of the industry. While demand will be high, these are opportunities not available for just anyone, so the potential payoff for exceptionally skilled workers is as great as the opportunities for integrators who can deliver a best-in-class workforce.
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