A Unique Breed
Tower climbers are a unique breed, we are adapted to handle what most would consider overwhelming or impossible. We spend most of our time far away from our families and loved ones doing a job we not only love, it’s also a job that the average person could not and would not do. We start each day with lengthy safety meetings that address the obvious dangers that come with the job. Then we belt up for the vigorous climb to our work station which may be 2,000 feet above where we are currently standing. We will spend the next 10 to 15 hours above ground performing the tasks that need to be done, only relying on our physical strength to do so. This is done daily and it comes at a great cost to the body over time.
As the years go by we start to recognize little things, our knees ache in the mornings or perhaps it’s your shoulder but the show must go on so we power through and continue to work. This will only get worse as more time passes till you are at the point where you can no longer climb and then where does that leave you?
Statistically 1 out of every 5 tower climbers will become a foreman, 1 out of every 15 foremen will become a construction manager and the percentage drops drastically when it comes to construction managers moving up to project managers. So, I ask you again, where does that leave you?
Know Your Options For Growth
Tower climbers are often focused on the traditional stages of being promoted (green hand to climber, climber to top lead, top lead to foreman, foreman to CM and CM to PM) but there are other areas of the industry that most don’t know about. Every climber I talked to believes they will be the shining star that works their way up the chain but that won’t hold true for most of them.
Statistically the odds are against the climber, there’s just not enough management positions to support the number of climbers who anticipate moving up so it’s important to know your options. I’ve listed some below with a brief description. Our hearts will always be on the tower, unfortunately our bodies won’t allow us to climb forever.
This position is perfect for the detail oriented individuals who know towers and the equipment being used. This person works side by side with the RF design team and is responsible for ordering all the materials that will be needed to achieve the final configuration.
This position is perfect for the folks who know and understand how the equipment works. They work side by side with the carrier’s engineers to design the RF platform so they can achieve the desired coverage. This person also works with SAQ to make sure the loading is acceptable per the structural and mount analysis while keeping track of the current tower components.
This position is perfect for the software and computer savvy individuals who have a strong knowledge of the equipment and how it performs.
This person should have strong background in customer and industry standards. They will perform the virtual quality audit to verify the newly installed equipment was installed per the standards and correctly.
This person should be very detail oriented and have strong computer skills. They are responsible for organizing projects from beginning to the end all while keeping track of every little piece of info related to their sites.
These are just a few of the alternatives a climber could use to continue their career in the tower industry without having to climb daily. A lot of these positions can be found as missed opportunities. In my personal experience, I was asked to help on a project I knew nothing about and I discovered I had quite a knack for that type of work. Had I said no there’s no telling where I would be today.
Don’t be afraid to venture out of your comfort zone, ask if you can help on something you know nothing about and certainly don’t shy away when asked to do something that may not be “your” job.
Planning For The Future
In this chapter we covered one obstacle tower climbers face and identified a few solutions. In the next chapter we will cover what happens in the long run if everything goes right. 90% of the tower hands questioned had no retirement set up and little to no savings for life after towers. Are you one of the 90% also? In the next volume, we will cover what can be done to change that.
Note: To read part 2 of this series, click here.
Jeremy has been in the industry for over 24 years and is the founder of Tower Climbers of America. TCofA started as a small Yahoo group of around 16 members and has now grown to boast over 22,000 members around the globe. Learn More