Training America’s veterans for wireless careers

Virtually lost amid the angst over America’s “jobless recovery” is this startling fact:  the demand for wireless technology is growing so rapidly that – right now – 10,000 high-skilled and high-wage construction and retrofitting jobs in wireless infrastructure are going begging.  Wireless’ growth is just beginning:  experts say the marketplace for wireless data will, by the year 2018, escalate some 660 percent. In the history of postwar America, the only consumer phenomenon that rivals wireless is the explosion of television set purchases in the early 1950s.

Indeed, over the next five years, wireless infrastructure will spawn some 1.2 million new American jobs, expand economic growth by $1.3 trillion, and spur industry capital investment. 

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Building and upgrading the equipment needed to run the wireless networks of today and tomorrow demands workers with specialized skills. It also demands a concerted private-public partnership, one that recognizes America’s moral obligation to our returning veteran-heroes, many of whom are tragically struggling to find good jobs.

To help meet that obligation, the companies of PCIA, the Wireless Infrastructure Association, are partnering with the Veterans Administration, Warriors4Wireless, and technical and four-year colleges.  Led by Warriors4Wireless (warriors4wireless.com), an organization founded and run by veterans, these programs are offering life-changing opportunities for our veterans – training that honors their sacrifice, challenges their abilities, expands their skills, and rewards their contributions in an atmosphere aimed at providing them with a meaningful career, not just a one-time job.

The timing of wireless’ build-out is fortuitous. It comes just as the U.S. military is undergoing a significant reduction in force. Hundreds of thousands of veterans are returning from overseas deployments or otherwise separating from service, hoping to find jobs where they can use technical and leadership skills they learned in the military. 

Currently, we have training programs underway at Aiken (S.C.) Technical College and are about to begin one at Virginia State University, a historically black institution. The majority of students are veterans.  We’re hoping to replicate these programs around the country.  In just its first few months of operation, Warriors4Wireless has already placed more than 200 qualified veterans into wireless careers.

Nearly two dozen industry companies have pledged support for ensuring our veterans have opportunities to be trained, certified, and gainfully employed as America begins girding for the push to build out 4-G wireless, to be followed soon by 5-G.

We want our veterans and the chronically under-employed helping to construct wireless networks that give every American – regardless of where they live or the size of their bank account – access to world-class wireless service.  We want those workers helping to bring next-generation wireless to remote and underserved parts of the country.  

Our veterans have already sacrificed much to keep America at the forefront of the war against global terror. Now we want them to be an integral part of keeping America at the forefront of global competition.

Adelstein, a former FCC Commissioner, is the CEO and president of PCIA, the Wireless Infrastructure Association.