Learn about the demand for tower technicians

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STAUNTON, Va. (WHSV) -- Cell Tower Installation and Maintenance Technician

When you get no bars on your phone or your favorite radio or TV station has trouble sending its signal to you, it might require a tower technician to climb up several hundred feet to fix the problem.

Zach Johnson serves as the safety and training director for Shenandoah Tower Services in Staunton.

Zach Johnson, Shenandoah Tower Services:
"I actually heard a radio commercial. I heard a radio commercial as I was driving down the road with my other employer. It sounded very interesting, and I was at a point that I wanted to have a job that I could wake up, and enjoy my job constantly, and work with my hands.”

This is a job that can take you to new heights --quite literally. Johnson climbs communications towers to keep the signals on the air or powering your phone.

There is quite a view of the Staunton area from the top of this nearly 200-foot-tall tower.

Eddie Rutledge works with Johnson. Before this job, he never thought much about towers.

Eddie Rutledge, Shenandoah Tower Services:
"You see them everywhere, but I had never thought that there are actually people that work on them, and one day I drove by the shop, and they had a help wanted sign. I decided that it might be a fun adventure.”

These technicians manage multiple cell phone sites throughout the area.

Shawn Garner, a Shentel field technician:
“On a typical day I get a report in the morning to start the day on alarms that we have, troubles we have with cell sites. I prioritize those. A lot of it we can look at remotely to try to figure out what’s going on, what we need to do."

According to economic statistics gathered by the Shenandoah Valley Partnership, in Virginia, the average salary for this position is more than $52,000.

There are nearly 1,000 people in our state in this line of work and the SVP says the growth outlook is favorable with the explosion of digital technology.

Training usually involves technical schools, related on-the-job experience, and apprenticeship or an associate's degree in areas such as electronics or computer science.

Zach Johnson:
"The industry in general, it's going to explode. With the wireless industry there is no stopping because everybody has a tablet, cell phone, a computer, all those things as they use more and more data, and crave more things, this industry is going to grow.”

Johnson is working on developing an apprenticeship program to train tower technicians.

Zach Johnson:
“It's something where that program is designed for folks to come in with absolutely no skills, including construction skills, none at all, go through the basics, and that will involve formal classroom then also practicals. Then on top of that it will be on the job training that’s integrated within that."

One common theme all three technicians said they love about this line of work: the freedom and the vantage point.

Zach Johnson:
"The view. Obviously the view. It’s something where the first time you go up, you have that real quiet moment of I've never seen this before, and I want to keep seeing this."

Shawn Garner:
"Some days that can be bad, if you're standing in 3 feet of snow and it's sleeting on you, but there's really pretty days when you're up on top of the mountain, the sun is shining, and it's just nice to be outside. It’s always challenging."