WIA offers 5G and broadband training to prisoners, veterans

The Wireless Infrastructure Association (WIA) announced its latest initiative to train more American workers for the wireless industry. This spring and summer it’s working with Ashland University (AU) in Ohio to train approximately 140 incarcerated individuals — who are eligible for release within 12 months — prepare for careers in broadband and 5G. 

AU has received some funding from the Ohio Governor’s Office and is using the funds to help provide instruction on WIA’s 5G Readiness certification. The certification program focuses on four modules — wireless broadband infrastructure, 5G, in-building wireless solutions and broadband deployment. AU will offer the first two credentials to incarcerated individuals, and upon release, they will be able to take the third and fourth credentials to earn the certification.

This training will prepare participants to interview for jobs in occupations such as small cell technician, wireless technician, fiber optic technician and drive test technician, among others.

On March 20, AU instructors, who were trained by WIA, began delivering Credential One of the program to eligible students in the Richland Correctional Institution, the Belmont Correctional Institution, and the Northeast Reintegration Center in Ohio.

AU has already been working with WIA for over a year to deliver the 5G Readiness Certification to unemployed, underemployed and low-income Ohioans.

WIA is proactive on training telecom workers

The U.S. is experiencing a worker shortage in many fields. For its part, WIA has been making a concerted effort for a number of years to provide workforce training in the telecom field.

WIA’s Executive Vice President Tim House said that starting in 2013 the group realized that there was a retiring workforce along with a lack of telecom-worker programs at 2-year and 4-year institutions. “We stepped into the breach and invested at that time,” said House.

In 2013, WIA helped to pioneer the Telecommunications Industry Registered Apprenticeship Program (TIRAP), which now classifies 15 different telecom occupations and has 89 different employers registered within the program. 

In 2016 WIA started engaging with academia to create the Telecommunications Education Center, which houses more than 40 courses of telecom-related curriculum. It’s a blended learning opportunity with virtual live courses, e-learning, classroom courses and in-the-field training.

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At last year’s ConnectX conference, which is hosted by WIA, the trade group touted its work with the military to train veterans for jobs in wireless and broadband.

House said that in 2020, WIA was awarded a Department of Labor contract to be an Industry Intermediary for Telecommunications. The contract requires WIA to pursue activities to help under-represented populations such as veterans.

WIA also works with the non-profit group Warriors 4 Wireless, which helps veterans train for civilian jobs. In 2022, Warriors 4 Wireless connected 602 vets to employers, and in January it connected 89 vets to employers, which if it maintains this pace, would result in more than 1,000 jobs for veterans this year.

WIA also engages with military bases fairly frequently to help its employers to try and hire veterans.

Circling back to its work in Ohio, House said that’s part of its sector partnerships. Although it’s only working with the state of Ohio at this point, WIA anticipates that others states will want to work with the trade group. He said state broadband officers all have major concerns about the lack of a skilled workforce particularly given the demands on the horizon related to the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) funding.