Technicians to be first at bat
TIRAP to elevate tower techs' industry standing with unified training and national certification
October 15, 2014 – A powerful consortium of telecommunications companies and industry associations have joined with the U.S. Department of Labor (DoL) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in forming a public-private partnership aimed at developing apprenticeships to improve workplace safety, address industry workforce needs, and provide workers with greater employment and advancement opportunities.
Known as TIRAP, the Telecommunications Industry Registered Apprenticeship Program, the joint venture will develop DoL-credentialed apprenticeship programs for the training and career development of the telecommunications industry workforce.
TIRAP marks the first time that multiple industry stakeholders have combined efforts to create an apprenticeship program that wireless infrastructure companies can implement voluntarily and cost-free to enable employees to cultivate key skills through education and on-the-job training.
Technical proficiencies will now be validated
Upon finishing the training program, an apprentice earns a nationally-recognized credential that validates a worker’s technical proficiency.
"Innovation is driving demand for advance telecommunication services, and as a result the industry needs a highly-skilled, safety-conscious workforce to build and maintain our country's world-leading network infrastructure," said Scott Kisting, Senior Vice President of Midwest Underground Technology, Inc. and Chairman of TIRAP’s governing board.
"A DoL-credentialed apprenticeship program will help us fill the thousands of much-needed positions with driven, skilled workers that have a safety-first mentality."
TIRAP brought together stakeholders from various parts of the industry to oversee the continued development of new apprenticeships that will meet the current and future needs of the telecommunications industry.
Key participants include wireless infrastructure companies American Tower Corporation, CommScope, Crown Castle International, and SBA Communications; construction and service companies Midwest Underground Technology, Inc. and Shenandoah Tower Services; safety equipment manufacturer and outfitter GME Supply Company; industry trade group PCIA - The Wireless Infrastructure Association; and non-profit veterans training and employment advocate Warriors4Wireless.
Techs are up first, but dozens of certifications to follow
"Today, we are in the midst of the rapid deployment of 4G wireless networks and beyond. Our first apprenticeship, telecommunications tower technician, is focused on those individuals constructing these cutting-edge networks and developing their technical knowledge, understanding of the scope of work for these deployment projects, and mastery of all-important safety training," said Kisting prior to a formal signing of the TIRAP program in Washington, D.C. yesterday at noon.
"In turn, these apprenticeships will help address industry needs, enhance workplace safety in the workplace through skills-based and experiential training, and open up opportunities for high-skilled, well-paying jobs in one of the fastest growing industries in the world."
From tech to leadman to project manager
TIRAP members will continue to work with the DoL and other stakeholders to develop more apprenticeships and career ladders to facilitate the ongoing development of the wireless workforce.
The TIRAP initiative will allow wireless infrastructure workers to obtain stackable credentials in order to compete and be selected over applicants whose resumes are fraught with inaccuracies regarding their training and skills.
The first approved level is for a Telecommunication Tower Apprentice, but once the next certification is achieved, Telecommunication Tower Technician, the worker can move forward and capture additional certifications from Leadman to Project Manager, in numerous areas that are expected to be presented and approved such as Antenna and Line, Stacking, Modification, Maintenance, Microwave, Ginpole and Broadcast.
At the signing ceremony in the FCC Commission’s meeting room, Kisting said that the one-size-fits-all approach currently used for educating and training tower technicians will be replaced by workers achieving and testing for skill sets as they are required.
Program was set on a fast track for approval
With government agencies oftentimes credited with working at glacial speeds, Tuesday’s signing showed a remarkable sense of urgency within the DoL and the FCC to address safety and workplace needs.
It is also the first known public-private partnership that has a high ranking Occupational Safety and Health official, Jim Maddux Director of the OSHA Directorate of Construction, serving as an advisor.
TIRAP, a competency-based apprenticeship, came to life less than two years ago with assistance from the National Association of Tower Erectors (NATE), according to a fact sheet provided by the FCC and DoL at the signing ceremony.
However, although Johnathan Campbell, Director of Government Affairs for PCIA – The Wireless Association sits on the executive board and PCIA President Jonathan Adelstein introduced the program and chief government leaders at the signing ceremony, NATE is not represented on the TIRAP board, although its board members were in full force during the TIRAP presentation.
The executive board position of chairman was set to a maximum term of one year, according to an individual familiar with the organization’s governing structure.
“Too many industry association leaders tend to get mired down in their progress when they’re elected year after year. When people are dying you need to act quickly,” he said.
Joining Kisting on the executive board are David Sams, Vice Chair; Jonathan Campbell, Secretary; Beau Aero; Dave Anthony; Richard Cullum; Kelly Dunne; Dale Heath and Paul Roberts. Stephanie Brewer will join Maddux as an advisor and serve as the board’s coordinator.
The board will be tasked with developing and updating the work process for the program; developing evaluations for determining an apprentice’s progress and providing credit for past experience/education; and coordinating and consulting with the DoL and other partners on program improvement.
Employer's participation information being readied
TIRAP is currently developing a process for employers to join the apprenticeship program.
While TIRAP coordinates with the DoL on establishing the standards of the apprenticeship program and reviews/approves a company’s apprenticeship program as consistent with the TIRAP requirements, the individual company’s apprenticeship program is registered directly with the DoL or other applicable agency and the company directly engages apprentices.
However, the TIRAP board will continue to monitor the individual programs and inform the participating companies of improvements or modifications in the program.
Typically, a registered apprenticeship program is sponsored by an individual business or an employer association, such as one currently registered with the Washington State Department of Labor for a Wind Tower Technician apprenticeship under the direction of IBEW Local Union 77.
However, in the case of TIRAP, an industry board develops and oversees the training and qualification standards and coordinates with the DoL or other appropriate registration agencies to approve individual employer’s participation in the program. This framework is unique within the requirements of the DoL.
For additional information about TIRAP, click here.