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WIA Applauds Training, Apprenticeship Funding in Biden’s Build Back Better Framework Act

Jonathan Adelstein, president & CEO of the WIA.

The proposed funding for inclusion of sector-based training and registered apprenticeship, a workforce development program in the Biden Administration’s Build Back Better Framework Act, received praise from the head of a membership organization of companies that make up the U.S. wireless infrastructure ecosystem.

“I applaud President Biden for prioritizing workforce development and apprenticeships,” said Wireless Infrastructure Association (WIA) president and CEO Jonathan Adelstein. “The proposed funding increase for workforce development over the next five years, including sector-based training which WIA supports in telecommunications, will help recruit and retain telecommunications workers for good-paying careers in our high-growth industry.

“As the national sponsor of the Telecommunications Industry Registered Apprenticeship Program (TIRAP), WIA has led efforts to expand registered apprenticeships and workforce training in the wireless industry — and we know first-hand its value and the need for more investment. I commend the White House for its commitment to workforce development and encourage Congress to support this plan to build the workforce of the future and provide pathways to the middle class for millions of Americans, including those that join the telecommunications industry.”

According to WIA, since 2017 the association has administered national standards of apprenticeship for Department of Labor-approved occupations established under the program. Graduates receive national, industry-recognized credentials that certify occupation proficiency and expand opportunities for career advancement, the association said. WIA said it supports participating employers in promoting consistency and uniformity in training across occupations to improve the safety and quality of the wireless workforce.

According to the White House, the Build Back Better Act will create millions of good-paying jobs, enable more Americans to join and remain in the labor force, spur long-term growth, reduce price pressures and set the United States on course to meet its clean energy ambitions.

Ohio Colleges Launch WIA’s 5G Readiness Training Program

By Mike Harrington

From left: WIA Chief Technology Officer Rikin Thakker, Ph.D.; Ohio Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, Ashland President Carlos Campo and Youngstown State President Jim Tressel.

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.

Rikin Thakker, Ph.D., chief technology officer of WIA

“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.

Musings From Connect(X) 2021

Editorial Opinion by Ernest Worthman

(ORLANDO, Fla. – Oct. 6, 2021) — After two long years (although it seemed so much longer), WIA’s Connectivity Expo convention, also known as Connect (X), is back – and a great time is being had by all. Although the cloud of COVID-19 hangs over the conference, the light at the end of the tunnel shines through. Nearly everyone I spoke with was confident in the progress being made and how wireless is moving toward 5G and other wireless technologies.

The Connect (X) session, “View From the Top.” Photo courtesy of WIA.

According to the WIA powers that be, the conference attendance is only down by perhaps 10 percent, compared with 2019. A remarkable showing. Technical sessions abound, and attendance is respectable. The keynotes featured the usual suspects from T-Mobile, SBC, Crown Castle, Vertical Bridge, American Tower and, this year, Dish and Amazon Web Services. Having AWS here is a real indication of how the telecom segment is embracing and integrating technologies of the 21st century, such as the cloud.

There was no shortage of cutting-edge discussions around O-RAN, 5G, mmWave, fiber, neutral host, what the infrastructure bill means and how it will enable our industry. How to get into the loop for funds was an extremely popular session. CBRS, public-private partnerships, the edge, DAS, fixed wireless and fireside chats rounded out the conference.

What was most impressive to me in both the sessions and vendors is the visibility of 5G. Although the carriers receive the most noise when it comes to 5G, there is a quiet revolution going on with many vectors that are coming onto the scene. What I mean by that is the permeation of 5G in the enterprise, the industrial IoT, transportation, city centers and other applications outside of carrier-implemented 5G.

In the end, attending this show gave everyone a great perspective on how not just the wireless infrastructure is evolving, but how other platforms such as software are changing the way infrastructure hardware is evolving and how new verticals such private wireless are gaining some significant traction – it is not about the carriers anymore.

From left: Susan Au Allen, Deb Mercier, Pamela Prince-Eason and Ashli Fuselier.

One thing close to my heart at this conference is how WIA supports the Women’s Wireless Leadership Forum. There was a session I attended that featured some real powerhouse panelists. The session was moderated by Susan Au Allen, the national president and CEO of the U.S. Pan-Asian American Chamber of Commerce Education Foundations. Panelists included Deb Mercier, the WWLF executive director for programs; Pamela Prince-Eason, president and CEO of the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council; even a millennial, Ashli Fuselier, secretary of the WWLF executive board.

What impressed me about this panel was the general understanding of not only the challenges faced by women, but also their dedication to educating and supporting small and medium businesses (SMBs) in how to address and understand the issues involving diversity of all types. These individuals are truly power brokers in moving the diversity needle.

This was one of the best panels I attended or moderated. Hats off to these amazing women.

I want to express my appreciation of the involvement of WIA in many segments of not just wireless, but also business and government. It played a pivoting role in helping to shape some of the funding in the recent infrastructure bill, as well as other governmental policies in the wireless ecosystem.

I am elated that this conference is back. Aside from the over-the-top deep dive into the wireless space, it was great to see old friends and make new ones. And, the closing WWLF reception again featuring wireless’ greatest (and only) band the best harmonica player in wireless ecosystem, Johnathan Adelstein. And you thought he is just a mover and shaker with a pretty face. That made all the craziness worth every minute. Awesome job, WIA. Thanks for all you do, and see you in Denver next year.


Ernest Worthman is an executive editor with AGL Media Group.

DOL Approves Small Cell Apprenticeship, Appoints WIA’s Adelstein to Committee

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has approved the occupation of small cell technician as a nationally recognized occupation through the Wireless Infrastructure Association’s (WIA) Telecommunications Industry Registered Apprenticeship Program (TIRAP), according to WIA.

The occupation, TIRAP’s twelfth to receive official recognition as a registered apprenticeship, is fundamental for the expansion of modern wireless infrastructure nationwide and the advancement of 5G technology, WIA said.

“Small cells are typically placed on telephone poles and other existing structures, and their installation requires a different set of skills than macro tower installation,” a statement from WIA reads. “WIA consulted with subject matter experts from a wide range of carriers, operators, and contractors to build consensus standards for the small cell technician occupation.”

Jonathan Adelstein, WIA’s president and CEO, said that TIRAP considers current and future workforce demand in developing solutions for the wireless industry.

“Apprenticeships for small cell technicians will help bring new people into the industry as well as to upskill the existing workforce,” Adelstein said.

Brad Baumann, vice chair of the TIRAP Advisory Board and vice president of wireless solutions for Gabe’s Construction, said, “Standardizing skills and competencies for small cell technicians is a big step forward for TIRAP and for wireless and utility construction.”

Additionally, WIA said, Secretary of Labor Martin J. Walsh has appointed Adelstein to DOL’s National Advisory Committee on Apprenticeship, which President Joe Biden reinstated on Feb. 17. The committee provides advice and recommendations to the secretary on ways to better use apprenticeship training to provide equitable career pathways that advance the dignity of work, particularly in fast-growing industries and sectors, according to WIA.

Adelstein said that WIA is the leader in developing telecommunications apprenticeships and workforce training crucial to the expansion of telecommunications infrastructure and the advancement of 5G technology. He said that with TIRAP having expanded to 60 employers and 12 officially recognized apprenticeships, he would use the association’s experience in workforce development in the telecommunications industry to support the committee’s mission.


Wireless Industry Association Joins National Spectrum Consortium

In an effort to to increase industry collaboration on the research and development of 5G and 5G-based technologies, the Wireless Infrastructure Association (WIA) has joined the National Spectrum Consortium (NSC), WIA disclosed. WIA represents businesses that build, develop, own and operate American wireless infrastructure, WIA said, and it advocates for widespread, responsible deployment of wireless infrastructure to enable mobile broadband for communities. 

“In order to effectively address our country’s most pressing needs for wireless infrastructure, we must deliver unified solutions,” said WIA’s chief technology officer, Rikin Thakker, Ph.D..Thakker said WIA would work with NSC to transform communications and bring next-generation technology to the U.S. defense sector and American communities.

Lizy Paul, NSC’s chair, said that WIA would help NSC with its mission to build bridges among government, industry and academia.

NSC members collaborate on research and development to incubate new technologies to revolutionize the way in which spectrum is accessed, shared and used, according to a statement from WIA.

“Through collaboration among industry, academia, and government agencies, the National Spectrum Consortium supports the implementation of 5G, 5G-based technologies, and spectrum awareness, sharing, and use,” the statement reads.