The Wireless Industry Association’s (WIA) Telecommunications Education Center (TEC) has received contracts from Ohio’s Youngstown State University and Ashland University to launch a program that will equip students with the competencies required to design and deploy broadband infrastructure, including mobile broadband, 5G wireless communications and optical fiber. WIA executives joined Ohio Lt. Governor Jon Husted yesterday to launch the groundbreaking telecommunications training partnership, which is being funded by the state of Ohio.
Through the TEC-provided training, students will earn a 5G Readiness certificate that bundles 10 industry-recognized certificates. 5G subject matter experts from industry and academia helped to design the training. It consists of 80 hours of industry-validated training material, which includes hands-on exercises and a 5G site visit.
As an added benefit, the training further prepares students for the workforce by meeting the Related Technical Instructions requirements of a variety of occupations under the Telecommunications Industry Registered Apprenticeship Program (TIRAP), of which WIA is the national sponsor. TIRAP also has 61 employer sponsors.
“Through BroadbandOhio, our administration is aggressively working to expand high-speed internet access around Ohio, but we can’t build the infrastructure without programs to train and produce a workforce,” said Husted. “This sector partnership will spur the creation of even more training programs in the state, allowing more Ohioans to earn the skills and credentials needed to get a job in this fast-growing industry.”
Ashland University reported that it received a $160,000 grant from the Ohio Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation. The university will receive support and training from WIA to administer the new program, which will be housed under the College of Online and Adult Studies. The funding will be used to collaborate with the WIA to host 5G Readiness training, and provide scholarships for 25 Ohioans to participate.
The 5G Readiness program is part a broader effort to strengthen Ohio’s broadband and 5G wireless communications workforce. On Sept. 8, WIA representatives joined Husted at the Tri-County Career Center in Nelsonville, Ohio, as he inaugurated a new fiber-optic technician training program. The state of Ohio provided $30,000 to WIA to purchase equipment and tools needed for the fiber-optic training program.
“In Ohio and across the nation, there is a sense of urgency to expand high-speed internet, but you can’t expand the infrastructure without a workforce to build it,” said Husted, who serves the director of the workforce transformation office.
“We are excited to partner with Youngstown State University and Ashland University to offer this program,” said Rikin Thakker, Ph.D., WIA’s chief technology officer. “Along with preparing the high-skilled workforce needed to deploy 5G networks, Ohio is investing to efficiently build the broadband infrastructure needed to bridge the digital divide. For students, the 5G Readiness program will encourage them to join our industry and provide pathways toward long and successful careers in wireless.
“When the Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation released a report last month on ‘Strengthening Ohio’s Broadband and 5G Workforce,’ the lieutenant governor outlined a number of initiatives, including the 5G Sector Partnership and 5G Readiness Program,” Thakker said. “Only a month has passed, and this administration has already taken action, announcing these programs, which are connecting education and industry partners to help solve the identified workforce challenges. This is exemplary for many states that are trying to find innovative workforce solutions.”
Thakker said that WIA was invited to participate in numerous stakeholder meetings organized by the Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation and BroadbandOhio this year.
“5G Readiness is one of the solutions we at WIA can provide to help address the challenges we discussed during these meetings,” he said. “Through this partnership, Ohio will not only create high-skilled workforce needed to deploy 5G networks, but will also build the broadband infrastructure faster to bridge the digital divide.”
WIA said that 5G deployment is expected to create 4.6 million jobs over the next decade. “Unlike its predecessors, 5G is not just another wireless technology,” Thakker said. “It integrates wireline and wireless advancements and will transform many other industries, including healthcare, education, manufacturing, transportation and defense. However, all of this will rely on the timely deployment of 5G networks.”
Thakker also said that he believes the WIA’s 5G Readiness program will help to address the broadband and telecom industry’s massive shortage of skilled workers.
“To help overcome this challenge, employers need industry-focused training and curriculum that can be delivered through various outlets,” Thakker said. “WIA’s Telecommunication Education Center is working hard to facilitate this training to help close the skill gaps we are facing in the industry. Our program will not only bring awareness of career options to the students, but will also show them different entry points to our industry.”
Last month, Thakker told eDigest that WIA is working with many local and state leaders to bring increased connectivity and career opportunities to communities across the country.
“I can’t speak too specifically to those plans as they’re in various stages of development, but I can tell you that our industry has experienced a notable increase of interest from elected officials about how their state can directly forge pipelines between its education systems and workforce,” Thakker said. “The Ohio plan does just that. We hope that states will see this as a prime opportunity to join Ohio as a leader in not only building broadband infrastructure, but also funding workforce development programs to support it.”
Mike Harrington is a contributing editor.