October 8, 2014 — Last week, the Department of Labor (DoL) announced a $3.25 million grant to create a college-based template for wireless infrastructure job training at Virginia State University, Petersburg, Virginia. The grant is critical to creating jobs, maintaining global competitiveness and enabling future network upgrades, according to Jonathan Adelstein, PCIA – the Wireless Infrastructure Association.
“The educational system in America has not kept up with the growth of our industry. It is critical for our industry that we improve the level of training and skills. We don’t have enough qualified personnel to do the job, and we are going to do something about that,” he said on a press conference call.
PCIA helped write the grant, which will allow VSU to strengthen a new program aimed at building a network of colleges to train students for high-skilled careers in wireless infrastructure, and the association will assist in managing the program. As part of the award, DoL approved $750,000 for PCIA to help create nationally recognized competencies and credentials in the field of wireless infrastructure deployment.
“The education system is like an aircraft carrier. We are going to turn that around, but it’s going to take time. We are proactively trying to get our industry the workers that it needs,” Adelstein said.
The association will establish a collaborative board comprised of carriers, wireless infrastructure owners, large general contractors and other industry associations that will oversee development of the training and standards to be taught. The academic curriculum will be created by industry professionals, including members of PCIA.
“Through this board, we are trying raise the standardization of training nationwide, taught by certified trainers,” Adelstein said. “We want to establish credentials that are verifiable with a national database, so that an employer can see if someone can do a certain type of work. This will improve not only safety but also the quality of the work being done.”
The grant will extend through 2018 and is aimed at enabling trainees to receive hands-on technical and safety training at VSU and partner schools. PCIA has also partnered with the Departments of Labor and Veterans Affairs to support the veterans’ job training program known as Warriors4Wireless.
“Virginia State University is going to be the center of wireless education in the United States,” Adelstein said.
“This will give veterans and displaced workers opportunities to be trained, certified and employed in wireless infrastructure.”
Adelstein, who was joined by Ben Moreland, head of Crown Castle and chair of PCIA’s boards, referred to October as one of the most important months wireless has experienced. He and Moreland spoke at length about the importance of the FCC Report and Order concerning small cell zoning rules coming out on Oct. 17.
He also spoke about the Oct. 9 “connected farm” event with FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, featuring PCIA member John Deere, the October 15-16 PCIA/HetNet Expo in Chicago and the Oct. 16 PCIA workshop on federal lands siting issues. Additionally, on Oct. 14, FCC Chairman Wheeler and DoL Secretary Perez are expected to announce the establishment of a DoL-approved private-public apprenticeship partnership that will lead the telecommunications industry’s efforts to train technically skilled wireless infrastructure workers.