ATC Tower and Wireless Installation Program Becomes Model for National Initiative
National officials are looking to Aiken Technical College for one of the solutions in the country’s quest to be first to deploy new fifth-generation wireless technologies.
During a visit to the College on April 18, Commissioner Brendan Carr with the Federal Communications Commission announced an initiative to use the College’s tower and wireless installation program as the model for building similar programs throughout the country.
“What we are seeing here is really the future,” he said.
The 12-week basic certificate program prepares students to become cellular tower installation technicians. During the basic level program, students learn about topics such as safety, basic rigging and fall protection, fiber optics, wireless technology, antenna basics and spectrum management.
Graduates of the basic certificate program may continue their education at the college and earn the Advanced Tower and Wireless Installation Certificate, which prepares them for intermediate level positions in the industry.
Those who earn both certificates will then earn an Associate in Applied Science degree with a Major in General Technology-Emphasis in Tower and Wireless Technology.
“We are on this new wave toward 5G, which is the next generation of wireless service. It will be 100 times faster than what we have right now with 4G,” said Carr. “It is going to unlock all kinds of economic opportunities…we’re in this global competition, principally with China, to be the country that’s going to deploy this infrastructure first.”
Two keys to fulfilling that mission are to erect new tower sites and to have a skilled workforce in place to do so.
“A lot of people are thinking about it. A lot of people are contemplating ideas, but you, here at Aiken, have already solved the problem,” said Carr. “We are going to start an initiative that builds on the work you are doing here. We think the key to having a workforce to deploy these networks is more, what we call, triple T-1 certified tower climbers. That’s what people are able to do when they graduate from this program. And how we are going to do that is by replicating what you’ve done here—by doing it at community colleges and technical (colleges).”
Carr was joined during the visit by U.S. Congressman Joe Wilson (SC-District 2); Duane MacEntee, executive director of the National Wireless Safety Alliance; Shama Ray, owner of Above All Tower Climbing, board member for the National Association of Tower Erectors, and chair of the NATE Workforce Development Group; Jack Ray, director of operations with Above All Tower Climbing; Pat Cipov, president of Cipov Enterprises; and John Cipov, vice president of Cipov Enterprises.
The group toured the tower and wireless installation indoor lab and visited the program’s on-campus 90-foot towers, which were erected in 2018. Carr and John Cipov also participated in a tower climb with the program’s instructors and students.
“Thank you for the innovative work that you’ve done,” said Carr, praising ATC faculty, staff and administrators following his tower climb. “It’s places like this that are solving in a real, practical way challenges that we have at the national level.”
Wilson also shared similar praise for the program.
“I want to thank Aiken Technical College for having the vision to create this program,” he told the group. “I always knew that Aiken Technical College was so well thought of…now I find out you’re the gold standard for tower climbers. What an extraordinary opportunity!”