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Tag Archives: NATE

How Trade Certification Helps Wireless Industry Workers

By Don Bishop

Duane MacEntee (left), a partner at the law firm of Barker MacEntee and executive director of the National Wireless Safety Alliance, and Todd Schlekeway, president and CEO of NATE: The Communications Infrastructure Contractors Association.

Referring to what he called an incredible uplift in adoption of National Wireless Safety Alliance certification, Duane MacEntee, NWSA’s executive director, said that the organization has administered almost 30,000 examinations since its inception in 2015, and the vast majority of those have been given in the last 18 months. MacEntee spoke during an AGL Virtual Summit in June at the session, “Initiatives Grow the Communications Infrastructure Workforce and Increase Diversity,” moderated by Todd Schlekeway, president and CEO of NATE: The Communications Infrastructure Contractors Association.

MacEntee also is a founding partner of the law firm of Barker MacEntee, whose practice includes serving engineering firms and contractors doing business in wireless communications.

Among NWSA’s members are carriers, tower owners, contractors and supporting organizations that wanted an independent mechanism for verifying and validating worker proficiency, MacEntee said. He said the organization is becoming quite successful at having a trade certification. A trade certification differs from a training certificate, and he said both are extremely important.

According to MacEntee, a training certificate is evidence that someone has gone through a class, and has been trained on a particular skill. What a trade certification does is more comprehensive, he said.

“A trade certification is a test that validates the knowledge and experience of an individual at a certain proficiency level,” MacEntee said. “It has to be unbiased. We did this to make sure that we had an independent, verifiable and portable credential that goes to the worker, no matter where the worker is employed. It’s not unlike a welder: no matter where they got to work, they’re certified. That’s the analogy I draw for a crane operator.”

What NWSA tried to do, MacEntee explained, was to ensure that it came in at the right level within the framework of the apprenticeship model or the O*NET model of occupations, and to have the right people coming to the table. An example of a relevant apprenticeship model is the Telecommunications Industry Registered Apprenticeship Program (TIRAP) that includes 11 occupations. The Occupational Information Network (O*NET) was  developed under the sponsorship of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration through a grant to the North Carolina Department of Commerce. The O*NET database contains hundreds of standardized and occupation-specific descriptors for 1,000 occupations covering the U.S. economy.

As MacEntee explained, NWSA follows a deliberate, disciplined process, and the American National Standards Institute’s (ANSI) national accreditation board accredits NWSA. “That’s what gives us the credibility that we are managing the program to a standard that’s unquestionable, and that our testing instruments themselves are validated statistically,” MacEntee said.

The use of a statistical validation called psychometrics make sure that NWSA is testing at the right level and that its tests achieve what the wireless communications industry says it needs, MacEntee said. “We go through a lot of science to get to a test that’s valid,” he said. “It’s the first time in our industry where there’s a credential that follows the worker, no matter where they’re employed. It’s meaningful for the professionalism industry.”

As a wireless communications industry worker pursues a career, there are points along the way where certification becomes important, MacEntee said. Typically, with an apprenticeship model, certification becomes critical, leading to NWSA’s collaboration with TIRAP.

“Many TIRAP members also are NWSA members,” MacEntee said. “We work together to identify trade certifications. It allows someone new coming into the industry to identify a path that they can point to, not unlike other professions in the trades in which they have an occupation that can provide for their families for years to come, and in which they can make progress. It’s a stair-step process.

“For workers who want to come in, who are dedicated to progression and who want to learn more, we have something for them to achieve that then represents the worker to employers that they can rely on, that doesn’t waste a lot of time in retraining all the time,” MacEntee said.

“If someone comes in to a trade at a certain level of proficiency —no one questions an electrician, a master electrician, as to whether or not they know Ohms law, right. Therefore, it’s that kind of thing. We’re looking at that as being a very big plus for our industry.

For the June 8 AGL Virtual Summit, Total Tech sponsors included Raycap, Valmont Site Pro 1, Vertical Bridge and B+T Group. Tech sponsors included Alden Systems and Aurora Insight. Viavi Solutions sponsored the keynote address. Additional sponsors included Gap Wireless, NATE, VoltServer and WIA.

Sharpe Smith programmed the Summit, and Kari Willis hosted. AGL Media Group has scheduled the next AGL Virtual Summit for Sept. 8. To register, click here.

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Don Bishop is executive editor and associate publisher of AGL Magazine.

Apprenticeships Boost Employee Numbers, Diversity in Wireless Communications Industry

By Don Bishop

Stephanie Brewer, director of telecommunications safety and compliance for USA Telecom Insurance Services and TIRAP board chair, and Todd Schlekeway, president and CEO of NATE: The Communications Infrastructure Contractors Association.

The wireless communications industry offers so many job opportunities in a variety of occupations that the Telecommunications Industry Registered Apprenticeship Program (TIRAP) now includes 11 occupations, according to Stephanie Brewer, director of telecommunications safety and compliance for USA Telecom Insurance Services, who also chairs the TIRAP board of directors. Brewer said that TIRAP recently added an underground and an overhead utility installer occupation that it previously did not have. Tower technician, wireless technician, antenna line, tower construction and inspection are among other occupations in the TIRAP program, she said.

Brewer spoke during an AGL Virtual Summit in June at the session, “Initiatives Grow the Communications Infrastructure Workforce and Increase Diversity,” moderated by Todd Schlekeway, president and CEO of NATE: The Communications Infrastructure Contractors Association. She said TIRAP is opening up, expanding upon the base position of tower technician, and that the program is working on including the small cell.

“Employers can register with TIRAP and have a roadmap that’s already created for training employees to these high-demand occupations,” Brewer said.

The TIRAP board of directors is made up of a diverse group of industry experts, including tower owners, carriers, safety suppliers, industry associations and construction companies that are involved in the apprenticeship program, Brewer said.

Elaborating on the history of the program, Brewer said TIRAP was created in 2013. It was a joint venture with the U.S. Department of Labor and the telecom industry looking to improve workplace quality and safety by addressing industry workforce needs and by providing employment and advancement opportunities, she said. Brewer explained that TIRAP is a competency-based program. Each occupation has a list of training competencies for on-the-job learning, she said, and it includes related technical instruction, which is the classroom component of any apprenticeship program.

“The uniqueness of TIRAP is that the employers can take these occupations and do the training in the manner that works for them and potentially their size of company,” Brewer said. “That training could be through an internal trainer, a community college, online, a third party or a combination of any of those. It also allows the employer to add training to the occupation, if they would like to, as we know each employer has different services that they provide.”

Schlekeway asked how apprenticeships inspire employees to achieve personal goals and recognition, to achieve greater success for the employer company and to motivate the company to invest in them.

“Giving them a career path — that’s a huge opportunity,” Brewer said. “If they feel like they’re being built into, and you’re building into those employees, they may not jump across the street for 10 or 15 cents. They may see that there’s a value in staying with your company and that you’re continuing to help them with their career path.”

Fifty-six employers have registered with the program, Brewer said, including recent signups by two large employers in wireless communications. She said 2,500 employees have signed apprenticeship agreements in the Registered Apprenticeship Sponsor Information Database (RAPID), the Department of Labor’s portal for the apprenticeship programs.

“That’s why we’re able to track how many we have in the telecommunications apprenticeship program,” Brewer said. She said 1,200 apprentices have completed an occupation, and TIRAP has five pre-apprenticeship program providers: Warriors4Wireless, Air Stream Renewables, Learning Alliance Corporation, Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico and EDS Technical Training.

Funding opportunities that the Wireless Infrastructure Association secured to the grant and the contract allows TIRAP to provide financial support to some employers that register with TIRAP and, in many cases, help with the cost of their training, Brewer said.

“We know how much training costs to continue the education for employees you have, or to bring on new employees, with the new higher cost of the training and the certifications,” she said. “We’re hoping to offset some of that cost by getting these grants and contracts.”

Schlekeway asked what TIRAP hears from employers about their diversity needs and what TIRAP does to create a diverse workforce.

“Some of the pre-apprenticeship companies that we partner with, like Warriors4Wireless and Learning Alliance, have a strong commitment to veterans,” Brewer said. “Many employers have partnered with those organizations to reach many diverse employees for their companies. For TIRAP specifically, we’re making sure we’re working with many companies that already have programs established.”

Brewer said that Deb Bennet, the director of apprenticeship at the Wireless Infrastructure Association, TIRAP’s national sponsor, has hired two experts specifically dedicated to the diversity outreach. With the DoL contract, Brewer said, TIRAP has a 50 percent diversity placement goal, and she said that veterans are inherently diverse.

“A huge part of our goals for the next couple of years is working with employers and pre-apprenticeship companies to make sure that we’re creating a diverse workforce,” Brewer said.

For the June 8 AGL Virtual Summit, Total Tech sponsors included Raycap, Valmont Site Pro 1, Vertical Bridge and B+T Group. Tech sponsors included Alden Systems and Aurora Insight. Viavi Solutions sponsored the keynote address. Additional sponsors included Gap Wireless, NATE, VoltServer and WIA.

Sharpe Smith programmed the Summit, and Kari Willis hosted. AGL Media Group has scheduled the next AGL Virtual Summit for Sept. 8. To register, click here.

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Don Bishop is executive editor and associate publisher of AGL Magazine.

Website Promotes ‘Vertical Freedom’ Tower Climber Documentary

The professional and personal lives of six communications infrastructure workers serve as examples in Vertical Freedom, a film produced by Storybuilt Media in collaboration with NATE: The Communications Infrastructure Contractors Association. The workers, according to NATE, possess diverse backgrounds and compelling stories, on and off the job.

NATE has launched a website, www.verticalfreedomethemovie.com, to provide updates and details about the documentary, scheduled to be released in 2022. Storybuilt released the film’s movie trailer in June. To watch the movie trailer, click here.

NATE showed an audience the movie trailer at the South Wireless Summit in Nashville on June 28. According to NATE, the film will “help to advance world knowledge about the exacting and professional skillsets that tower technicians are required to have to achieve success in their office in the sky.” NATE also said the movie features “amazing storylines and amazing views.”

New NATE Director Recounts Her Passion for Safety

By Kathy Stieler, NATE Director of Safety

Kathy Stieler, NATE Director of Safety, Health & Compliance.

Today has been a very interesting day for me. It was the first day in my entire working career, that I got up, took a shower, got dressed, made breakfast, made a pot of coffee, and headed to work – at my house. Today, I started a new career path…I began a new journey working for an industry, and not for one specific company. Pretty dang awesome!

The story of my life is fairly boring in my opinion. I grew up in a wonderful town with the most amazing family. My grandparents lived next door to me while I was growing up. I would come home from school, drop my books off at my house, and then head out the back door to have an afternoon snack at my grandmother’s house with my “Mimo.” She was truly an angel on earth and could make all the troubles of my day go away with a touch on my face and a smile. I was the luckiest child, in my opinion, to have such amazing parents and having amazing grandparents living next door. Didn’t all kids have their grandparents live next door?

I loved high school because it was easy for me. I did not have to study much and I got great grades. I played the violin – yes, the violin – and was in the orchestra. I played in every musical that our high school performed, and even at one or two at other schools. I love horses and was given my first horse on my 16th birthday in my junior year at high school. I became a violin teacher so I could help with the expenses of taking my horse to horse shows. I also played the piano and was better at that than the violin. I even thought about a musical career path. But to be honest, I just did not think I was THAT talented. I also decided it would be way too much work to major in music so I headed to Purdue to be a pharmacist.

My first year at Purdue – I hated pre-pharmacy. My dream of becoming Madame Curie quickly went out the window. College was a whole lot harder than high school and I was failing quickly. I needed to make a move. For my next college path, I decided I was going to be an electrical engineer – to be just like my dad. Purdue decided that I was not going to be “just like my dad” and recommended that I find a new major. Through a lot of soul searching and career testing – my calling ended up being the Krannert School of Management, with labor relations as a major and psychology as a minor; sounds like a perfect education for me to become the Director of Personnel and Safety for my dad!

Let me back up a moment. In 1978, my 5th and last year at Purdue, I met my dad in Indianapolis at the IOSHA office to discuss a “citation” that was issued to Dad’s company. He thought it was a good way to see his daughter, and maybe I would learn something. As dad explained it to me, the citation was not correct, and he thought IOSHA should remove it. Dad did a great job stating his case. The citation was appealed, we won, and, in my eyes, my dad was a hero. At the end of the meeting, the executive director of IOSHA made the pitch that Safety might be a perfect fit for me. Voila! I had a new career path. I graduated from Purdue and began working for my dad as his new Director of Personnel and Safety.

My second month at work, I got a call from one of our superintendents to tell me that IOSHA was on our jobsite at GE Plastics in Mt. Vernon, Indiana. Not one IOSHA inspector, but six IOSHA inspectors. I spent three weeks following these guys around asking them questions, making notes, seeing what they were seeing, taking pictures, and believe it or not, being quiet and listening! These guys were amazing, and they shared their knowledge with me. How cool was that? Over the next 31 years, if IOSHA showed up at any of my jobsites, the inspectors would say, “call Kathy”.

I am not going to bore you with much more of my story, except to tell you that Safety has been my passion. 42 years in the safety industry without a fatality! I have some regrets – the recordable injuries that happened to my employees, while performing work for me. These broke my heart. There is nothing as painful as getting a call concerning an employee that gets injured. Your heart stops, you get cold inside. You finally ask the questions, where are they, I need to see them. Will they be OK? I know the dates of the injuries, I know where I was and what I was doing when I got the call, I know the details of the accidents, I know the employee’s name, I know their families. As I uncovered the causes surrounding the accidents, I shared that knowledge with others in the field. I developed any additional training and completed the training. Safety policies and plans were changed and knowledge was shared. In every case, I remained accountable.

My life in the telecommunications industry sort of just happened. I did not know anything about telecommunications really, until ERI called me. Yes, I had been in the construction industry forever. But this industry is just a tad different. Most all of the work being completed is vertical instead of horizontal! Little known fact, I am terribly afraid of heights. Falling off the high dive when I was 10 may have caused this fear. But my passion for safety, and my strong personality – 😊 – helped me along the way. I encouraged so many of the NATE Safety professionals to share knowledge with me and teach me. They mentored me. Not one safety professional – all of them! This is what NATE is all about. This is why I love NATE. We all have the same goals, and we all help each other. This is what Women of NATE is all about – helping the Women of the industry. We all have the same goals…we all help each other. Cool stuff!!!!

“Company’s Comin’. Come a-runnin’. Company’s Comin’. Don’t you know.  Company’s Comin’. Come a-runnin’. Company’s Comin’. Here We Go!”

Why the “Company’s Comin’”?  I am excited about what is comin’. I am excited about the WON Leadership Conference. I am excited about NATE UNITE! I am excited about getting to work for all of you! I cannot wait to see everyone. Let’s get up and dance!

Kathy Stieler is the NATE Director of Safety, Health & Compliance. She can be reached at [email protected] This essay first appeared in Women of NATE Today newsletter, July 7, 2021.

NATE Goes Hollywood With Feature-length Documentary

By the Editors of AGL

Click here to watch the trailer.

Storybuilt Media, in collaboration with NATE: The Communications Infrastructure Contractors Association, produced a movie trailer for Vertical Freedom, a feature-length documentary scheduled to be released in 2022. The documentary highlights the professional and personal lives of six communications infrastructure workers in the United States who possess diverse backgrounds and compelling stories, on and off the job. NATE showed the trailer at the South Wireless Summit in Nashville on June 28th. The film will “help to advance world knowledge about the exacting and professional skillsets that tower technicians are required to have to achieve success in their office in the sky,” a statement from NATE reads. NATE also said the movie features “amazing storylines and amazing views. Get your popcorn ready.”