Crossing the Finish Line in the Race to 5G

There is wide bipartisan agreement in Congress and at the White House on at least one thing: leading the world in 5G wireless deployment is a national priority. Winning the global 5G race means the U.S. will continue to lead on so many innovative technologies that will develop from 5G, just as we did with 4G, which spurred millions of new jobs and the creation of entirely new industries, like the app economy.

But as wireless technology evolves, the workforce needs to evolve along with it. The skills of yesterday and today no longer suffice for the wireless jobs of the future. In fact, the U.S. lacks a wireless workforce that is big enough or trained enough to meet the demands of 5G service. If the U.S. wants to win the race to 5G, it’s time to lace up our running shoes and start pounding the pavement because workforce is where the rubber meets the turf. Without a properly trained 5G workforce, China will beat us to the finish line.

This is National Apprenticeship Week, supported by the Department of Labor. As we celebrate the importance of apprenticeships, let’s recognize wireless is a perfect new industry for it. WIA is the national sponsor of the Telecommunications Industry Registered Apprenticeship Program (TIRAP), a multi-employer, nationwide apprenticeship program credentialed by the Department of Labor to support wireless workforce development. It is helping telecommunications workers create sustainable careers and support 5G infrastructure build-out and deployment needs.

TIRAP is already seeing tremendous success. More than 2,000 apprentices have enrolled with 28 participating employers. These apprenticeships provide in-the-field experience and necessary classroom instruction to build advanced wireless networks, all while getting paid. That’s why 94 percent of apprentices remain with the employer after completing an apprenticeship program.

TIRAP is gaining more interest from employers every day. And there are more than just companies interested. TIRAP is collaborating to develop curricula that can be implemented into community and technical colleges to provide academic support to apprentices.

WIA and the Power and Communication Contractors Association (PCCA) are working together to expand training initiatives into these colleges. PCCA has developed successful utility technician training programs that are being enhanced with WIA’s wireless curricula to teach workers skills they need for 5G deployment.

Wireless apprenticeships will help the U.S. reap the benefits of 5G: the creation of 3 million jobs and $500 billion in economic growth. Apprenticeships will help the nation win the race to 5G. Time to tighten our laces and sprint to the finish line!

This editorial originally appeared in Inside Towers.