As carriers begin to deploy 5G wireless communications technology, tower services companies are aggressively recruiting and training new employees to fill the rapidly growing need for skilled, fully trained cell tower crews.
“SAC is working hard to bridge the gap between the demand for qualified, trained technicians and the expected upsurge in demand as 5G networks are being deployed in the United States,” said Cari Shyiak, the CEO of SAC Wireless, a subsidiary of Nokia.
While job growth in 5G is rising, military veterans proportionally remain the highest unemployed segment of population in the United States. Tower services companies, such as SAC Wireless, which are already faced with a shortage of talent nationwide, are looking to meet their personnel needs by tapping the flow of men and women being discharged from military service.
SAC’s head of training, Cris Challender, said the company has a particular affinity for hiring veterans. “Veterans come from very broad and diverse backgrounds with unique specialties in the various branches of the services, but there are certain disciplines and skills that they all possess,” he said.
Challender, a veteran himself, said that veterans come to SAC Wireless, generally, from military occupations that require fitness. “Tower technicians have to climb anywhere from 150 feet up to 300-500 feet on a daily basis,” he said. “That is not something you can do if you are not fit and agile.”
Veterans are also known for having a strong work ethic and being motivated. “Those particular strengths make them almost an immediate success in this industry,” Challender said. “They fit right into the culture of the wireless tower industry.”
Veterans may have a mission mindset, Challender said, because of their experience being sent out into the field for specific purposes that may differ each time. “The mission mindset is built on the discipline of having to follow directions, learn, adapt and work toward the endgame,” he said.
SAC Wireless finds veterans through Warriors4Wireless (W4W), whose training program mirrors SAC Wireless’ training, according to Challender. Because of that, SAC Wireless is able to fast-track the training of W4W graduates, reducing it by a couple of weeks. Other sources for veterans include job fairs that are held sometimes near military bases.
SAC Wireless trains its tower technicians in a national wireless training center in Elgin, Illinois, which has several indoor towers, the highest of which is 35 feet, and it also has a 50-foot tower outside. Additionally, it has regional training facilities in Newark, Seattle, Atlanta and Dallas-Ft. Worth.
“Our training centers offer specific tower climbing experience that supplements the experience of the veterans, providing them with a refreshed and productive career opportunity after their military service ends,” Challender said. “They tend to learn faster and generally score slightly higher on tests, as opposed to someone without the military discipline.”