Wake Tech will be the first community college in North Carolina, and only the third in the United States to offer a Telecommunications Tower Technician program. The college announced the new program today in collaboration with Tower Engineering Professionals (TEP), a prominent Raleigh-based telecommunications engineering firm. The program, endorsed and supported by NATE: The Communications Infrastructure Contractors Association, and funded by Wake Works, will prepare students for high demand careers developing our nation’s 5G infrastructure and moving wireless telecommunications technology forward.
“We’re thrilled to partner with Tower Engineering Professionals on this much-needed Telecommunications Tower Technician apprenticeship program,” said Wake Tech President Dr. Scott Ralls. “This is exactly what Wake Works was designed for – to bring new opportunities that lead to greater economic mobility for Wake County residents and a stronger workforce.”
Students in the program will be registered apprentices at Tower Engineering Professionals in Raleigh where they will receive a combination of classroom instruction and hands-on training. Topics include safety, rigging, fall protection, principles of electricity, fiber optics, wireless technology cell components and more. When they complete the program, they’ll earn a National Wireless Safety Alliance (NWSA) certification credential and be prepared to work on the installation, maintenance and repair of cellular, broadcast, utility, and public safety towers.
Tower Engineering Professionals estimates that the company will need at least 150 new workers each year for climbing positions in the future.
“TEP is excited to partner with Wake Tech on this initiative,” says Andy Haldane, CEO of Tower Engineering Professionals. “This is a great opportunity for potential employees to gain a leg up on competition as they enter the workforce and for us as a company to attract and retain new talent. Our hope is to emulate this program across North America to help staff our current 18 offices and expedite expansion into additional regions. This program allows us to share our knowledge and have a positive impact on the entire telecom community.”
“The rapid evolution of wireless technology, propelled by the conversion from 4G to 5G, has led to a major shortage in skilled tower technicians across the country,” says Todd Schlekeway, Executive Director of NATE. “Every day I get calls from companies in search of qualified technicians. NATE views community college programs like this one at Wake Tech as being vital to developing a future pipeline of skilled technicians that are necessary to accomplish North Carolina’s and the country’s ubiquitous connectivity goals.”
The deployment of 5G infrastructure is estimated to require $275 billion in investment, adding $500 billion in economic growth and creating three million new jobs across the United States. North Carolina serves an essential role in this effort and in creating a pipeline for 5G jobs. This joint initiative between WTCC and TEP to train and certify Tower Technicians will help ensure the industry has the necessary workforce to deploy next generation networks.
Tower technicians in North Carolina earn an average salary of $51,000 a year. In addition to NATE, the new Wake Tech program is supported by the National Wireless Safety Alliance, the Wireless Infrastructure Association and the Telecommunications Industry Registered Apprentice Program. Other colleges offering similar programs include Aiken Technical College in Aiken, South Carolina and Southeast Tech in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
The Tower Technician program is one of five new apprenticeship opportunities being launched at Wake Tech next fall. The college will also add Automotive, EMS/Paramedic, Apartment Maintenance, and Building & Code Inspector to its list of apprenticeship programs. That list currently includes apprenticeship programs in welding, plumbing, electrical, carpentry and HVAC. All are funded by Wake Works, approved earlier this year by the Wake County Board of Commissioners. Wake Works provides funding for tuition, books, fees, and uniforms for students accepted into apprenticeship or pre-apprenticeship programs. For more information visit apprenticeship.waketech.edu.