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Delivering on 5G Promises Requires Rapid Expansion, Upskilling Telecom Network Workforce

Talent intelligence company Eightfold AI has published “What Telecoms Need to Build a Future-ready Workforce,” which reports findings and insights from the Eightfold Talent Intelligence Platform, the company said. Eightfold said its deep-learning platform uses the largest global talent dataset to determine talent readiness for addressing innovation trends in the telecommunications industry.

With a constantly evolving skill mix due to automation, emerging technologies and new business models, familiar telecom roles are undergoing a transformation of their own, according to Eightfold.

Many of the most common roles and skills are not currently addressing innovation trends, the company said. When it comes to technician roles including switch engineers, network technicians, network administrators and BSS engineers, 33 percent of the top network engineering and operations roles are not yet equipped with future skills to address trending innovations, according to Eightfold.

However, by evaluating skills adjacencies, these common network engineering roles can follow alternative career paths to transition into rising roles such as cyber security engineers, cloud engineers and performance engineers, the company said.

Although the industry is better-positioned to build out capabilities for cloud and edge computing as well as big data, the analysis identified the industry’s lowest talent readiness is in areas such as 5G and open RAN.

Eightfold said that telecoms have a short window of one to two years to build 5G capabilities, as providers accelerate 5G expansion and even prepare for 6G capabilities that will contribute to making emerging trends such as the metaverse phenomenon a reality.

“Focusing on new products and services requires a new approach to the skills needed across the organization,” said Sasha Worthington, global head of talent acquisition transformation at Ericsson. “Our ability to quickly adapt to market changes is not only being strengthened by accessing the best people on the market as quickly as possible, but also by empowering employees to have a dynamic understanding of their skills profiles as they build personalized and future-proofed career paths.”

For the telecommunications industry to overcome its talent challenges and capitalize on new offerings, Eightfold said, one part of the solution requires companies to upskill and reskill the current workforce to help bridge the gap between declining and rising skills, making use of skills adjacency to influence learnability. The process starts by identifying alternative rising career paths, such as network technician into cyber security engineer, by evaluating skills adjacencies and outlining the skills requirements into those future roles, the company said.

Kamal Ahluwalia

Another part of the solution requires companies to calibrate roles with future skills to build out career paths based on the rising skills within other fast-growing, innovative companies, Eightfold said. For a big-data engineer, for example, telecoms would benefit from calibrating roles with fast-rising skills present within the workforces of Amazon, Meta, IBM, Google, Microsoft, Apple and Netflix, the company said.

A third part of the solution requires companies to hire for potential to tap into a significantly larger pool of qualified talent, Eightfold said. It said that by adopting a hiring-for-potential approach, telecoms could increase their workforces by nearly threefold in areas such as 5G, cloud computing, and Python. This increases to nearly four times for future skills like agile methodologies, the company said.

“Speed and scalability are everything in the race to deliver the next big thing,” said Kamal Ahluwalia, president of Eightfold AI. “This sense of urgency is only compounded by the fact that telecoms constitute a backbone for all other emerging technologies to function and evolve. Now is the time to upskill the existing workforce, build a skills-based employee experience, and attract the brightest minds in the industry that will accelerate this digital reinvention for telecoms.”