There seems to be some confusion surrounding the NWSA Telecommunication Tower Technician (TTT1 and TTT2) Programs, and that may soon be a problem for many companies around the country. Let’s clear up some confusion and hopefully save you some time and money. If you work in wireless and think this does not affect you, please keep reading… this is going to shake up the industry.
First Thing’s First
First and foremost, there is no REQUIRED training for the certification/examination. The NWSA TTT certification program requires tower techs to pass a written Computer Based Test and a Practical Exam based on knowledge gained by industry experience and/or formal training. There are some training organizations who are offering a preparatory course, but again it is not REQUIRED, and not sanctioned by the NWSA. If you have received OSHA 10, Radio Frequency Safety Awareness, Tower Climber and Rescue, Competent Rigger, and other industry training you should have been exposed to much of the foundational material. Other knowledge you may have gained the knowledge from work/industry experience. Either way the certification is based on a wide range of knowledge developed to be a baseline for tower techs. Have a look at the candidate handbook, it has details on both the Computer Based Testing (CBT) and practical exam content, and a list of resources for further study
Not Your Traditional Industry Training
The TTT programs are not your traditional industry training, where there is a class and upon completing the class you recieve a certification. Instead, the NWSA program is a set of exams designed to demonstrate knowledge in a standardized setting while maintaining a high level of integrity. To be blunt, this is different than some of the pencil whipped courses we have all either heard of, or been enrolled in. This is a true pass or fail exam, (some will not pass) and that is a good thing for our industry if we truly want change. For many years the elephant in the room has been poor training provided by unqualified persons throughout the tower industry. The Train-the-Trainer programs (offered by most training providers) can sometimes be used to offer compromised or inadequate training. Of course, this is not true across the board. Many Train-the-Trainers provide as-good if not better training than their original instructor, however, our industry is replete with stories about being “issued” certifications as important as competent climber without having actually been trained on a tower. The NWSA Programs intend to raise the bar for our industry by truly testing for knowledge and ability, and hopefully making cheap training a bad investment.
Some folks think the NWSA TTT program does not apply to them because they don’t climb towers nor work on a tower crew. This is not entirely true. If you work in “verticality,” (basically if you work above ground level) this applies to you and your company. Let’s face it, in some geographical areas, like the great state of California for example, there are a lot of what the boys down South and in the Midwest affectionately call “basket queens,” who primarily operate aerial work platforms instead of climbing towers. Whether you operate aerial work platforms, work a on roof tops, or climb structures, this program applies to you and your company. Now if you are truly a civil worker, (concrete, trenching/excavation, electrical) and NEVER leave the ground the NWSA TTT program may not apply, however, you or your company should reach out to industry stakeholders, (carriers, tower owners, management companies) for verification and guidance.
Once you decide to become certified, here is how the exams work. Candidates will take the Computer Based Test (CBT) test at a location operated by a testing company called PSI Services. They administer tests nationally for many different purposes and have 450 locations around the US and Canada. You can submit online applications for the Computer Based Test at the NWSA here.
The practical exams are held at approved testing sites around the country which are either “open test sites” or “private test sites.” Open sites are open to public and the site would be contacted directly to schedule testing. Private test sites are those established by a company or organization for in-house certification. You can find a list of open exam sites here.
Candidates can either take the practical exam before the written exam or the written exam before the practical exam it doesn’t matter. There is no requirement to take one before the other. Some companies prefer their employees take the written exam before the practical because the written is less expensive. If an employee cannot pass the written exam why invest in the practical exam?
So, why should you care about the NWSA program?
- It’s going to cost your company some money. Maybe it’s not coming directly out of your pocket, but you should understand that it’s going to cut into profits which ultimately affects your raises, bonuses, new trucks, new tools, new PPE, etc.
- It will raise the bar for industry knowledge. That’s a win for everyone. It weeds out folks who don’t care to be educated on their craft, and boosts those who do care. Let’s be honest, if we can all work with one less dumb-dumb it would make for a better day.
- It will be an objective measurement of your knowledge. Good for you… bad for Slow-Joe at “2-Guys-and-a-Rope Telecom Inc.” down the road.
…Not convinced yet?
Here is the real deal. The NWSA Program has been adopted by several carriers and will most likely be required by all carriers in the very near future. This means you will likely be taking these exams soon if you want to maintain a career as a tower tech in the wireless business.
The fact of the matter is that AT&T has put a July 1, 2018 deadline for 25% of their workforce to be TTT1 certified. July 1, 2019 for 50%, and July 1 2020 for 100%. Sprint, and T-Mobile have made similar commitments to the program. Some Turf Vendors have already sped up the timeline for compliance. If your company has not looked into how you will get this certification under your belt, you should. The inevitable bottleneck of exam sites/examiners and candidates will certainly happen as the compliance dates draw closer. You should also be aware that this is generally not a flexible process. Scheduling the Computer Based Test can be several weeks out, and practical test sites have a minimum 48-hour notice which must be submitted to NWSA prior to scheduling an exam. Please make sure you leave yourself enough time. The NWSA TTT1 and TTT2 certification is good for 5 years.
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