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Labor Department Official Addresses Apprenticeships at Wireless Infrastructure Event

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February 25, 2021—As the demand for broadband continues to grow during the pandemic, so too must the workforce responsible for deploying it.

One avenue for growing this workforce is apprenticeships facilitated by broadband providers, often in conjunction with universities or trade organizations, such as the Wireless Infrastructure Association.

These apprenticeships are designed to provide people with paid opportunities to gain on-the-job experience, while also giving them a chance to work with mentors who can provide them with valuable insight into how the industry functions.

Carriers have many on-site technicians and other employees who have to complete essential work outside their home to keep the rest of the country at home. The pandemic has put more emphasis on the need of these workers and these apprenticeship programs can replenish any lost labor.

But what’s also a concern is whether the U.S. has enough of a workforce skilled enough to be able to rise to the challenges of 5G networks, which include new technologies and more connectivity points to manage.

John Ladd is an administrator in the Office of Apprenticeship with the Department of Labor. On a panel at the Connect X All Access Policy Summit 2021, Ladd stated that despite record levels of unemployment due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, more than 200,000 registered apprentices entered the workforce in 2020, in addition to a total of 2 million apprentices over the last five years.

“Apprenticeship works,” Ladd said. “And it works for everybody.”

Ladd claimed that apprenticeships in the wireless sector not only result in better wages and opportunities for employment for those doing the work, but funding apprenticeships also represents a strong return on investment for both broadband providers and the public. He said that recent presidential administrations recognized this and funded apprenticeship efforts in the past.

“We’re really fortunate that we’ve seen support for apprenticeship,” Ladd added.

Government support for apprenticeship programs

According to Ladd, the Obama Administration represented a renaissance for apprenticeships, and since then the support has continued.

“We’ve had [support] in the [Trump] Administration, and growing support as well in [the Biden] Administration.” He pointed to Biden’s affirmation of apprenticeships via a recent executive order. Though the order repealed former President Trump’s Industry Recognized Apprenticeship Program, it reinstated the National Advisory Committee on Apprenticeships.

This move was made in part to get rid of what the Biden Administration viewed as “redundancies” and “inferior systems,” but it was also designed to ensure a diversification of apprenticeship programs and uplift disadvantaged communities.

“Apprenticeship provides help to diversify the workforce and reach new talent populations,” Ladd argued that this move would not only bring more women and people of color into the workforce, but it would also provide opportunities for veterans transitioning out of the military. He called these apprenticeships “pipelines of talent,” and just one of the many tools that the Biden Administration had in its toolbox to help the economy get back on track.

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Education

Metaverse Can Serve as a Supplement, Not Replacement, For Educators: Experts

The virtual world where avatars can meet as if they were in real life can be a companion for education.

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Screenshot of the Brookings event Tuesday

WASHINGTON, June 29, 2022 – Experts said at a Brookings Institution event said Tuesday that while the “metaverse” can go a long way toward improving education for some students, it should serve as a supplement to those educational goals.

The metaverse refers to a platform of 3D virtual worlds where avatars, or virtual characters, meet as if they were in the real world. The concept has been toyed with by Facebook parent Meta and is being used as a test for the educational space.

“The metaverse is a world that is accessible to students and teachers across the globe that allows shared interactions without boundaries in a respectful optimistic way,” Simran Mulchandani, founder of education app Project Rangeet, said at Tuesday’s event.

Panelists stated that as the metaverse and education meet, researchers, educators, policymakers and digital designers should take the lead, so tech platforms do not dictate educational opportunities.

“We have to build classrooms first, not tech first,” said Mulchandani.

Rebecca Kantar, the head of education at Roblox – a video game platform that allows players to program games – added that as the metaverse is still emerging and being constructed, “we can be humble in our attempt to find the highest and best way to bring the metaverse” into the classroom for the best education for the future.

Anant Agarwal, a professor at MIT and chief open education officer for online learning platform edX, stated the technology of the metaverse has the potential to make “quality and deep education accessible to everybody everywhere.”

Not a replacement for real social experiences

Kathy Hirsh-Pasek, senior fellow of the global economy and development at the Center for Universal Education, said that while the metaverse brings potential to improve learning, it is not a complete replacement for the social experience a student has in the classroom.

“The metaverse can’t substitute for social interaction. It can supplement.”

Mulchandani noted the technology of the metaverse cannot replace the teacher, but rather can serve to solve challenges in the classroom.

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Education

Fiber Broadband Companies and Consultants Tout Their Work for Social Good

Fiber providers, equipment companies and consultants discussed their work in communities in a session at Fiber Connect

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Photo of Ritchie Sorrells of GVTC Communications, Hu Meena of C Spire, Ji Soo Song of Education Department's Office of Educational Technology and Keven Morgan of Clearfield by Drew Clark (left to right).

June 16, 2022 – Leading fiber broadband platforms are hoping to positively impact future generations beyond fiber deployment through education programs for youth, scholarship awards, and traditional community service events, said panelists at Fiber Connect event Tuesday.

The panel discussion, according to promotional material for the panel in advance of the session at the conference, “represented a new level of commitment based on the belief that operators have a responsibility to make the communities they serve even better.” The showcase panel was a way for the Fiber Broadband Association to highlight the work of providers, equipment vendors, consultants and government officials.

Companies are particularly focused on how to influence following generations for good. C-Spire is working with schools in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math education, and it provides programs for youth to learn coding and participate in coding challenges hosted by C-Spire.

Working with the state of Mississippi, fiber provider C-Spire made computer science education available to all K-12 students in the state and donated $1 million for teacher training. C-Spire also provided more than $3 million in scholarships for higher education.

GVTC Communications, a consultant to the telecom industry, works with local nonprofits, churches, schools, and businesses to donate full thanksgiving meals to families in need every year since 2012.

Listening to the needs of the community is essential to make an impact, agreed the panel. “When you have listening as your core value, you find out things that you can really make a difference in,” said Kevin Morgan, chief marketing officer at Clearfield, a provider of equipment for fiber builds.

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Education

Education Executives Tout Artificial Intelligence Benefits for Classroom Learning

Artificial intelligence can help fill in gaps when teacher resources are limited, an event heard.

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Screenshot of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation event

WASHINGTON, May 25, 2022 – Artificial intelligence can help fill in gaps when teacher resources are limited and provide extra help for students who need individualized teaching, experts said at an event hosted by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation on Tuesday.

As policy makers weigh the options for a structure for AI in the classroom, panelists agreed on its benefits for both teachers and students. Michelle Zhou, CEO of AI company Juji Inc., said AI technology in the classroom can be tools and applications like chatbots for real-time questions during class, and post-class questions at home for when the teacher is not available.

Lynda Martin, director of learning strategy for strategic solutions at learning company McGraw Hill, said AI provides the extra help students need, but sometimes are too shy to ask.

When a teacher has a high volume of students, it is difficult to effectively help and connect with each student individually, Martin said. AI gives the teacher crucial information to get to know the student on a more personal level as it transmits the student’s misconceptions and detects areas of need. AI can bring student concerns to the teacher and foster “individualized attention” she added.

Privacy and security concerns

Jeremy Roschelle from Digital Promise, an education non-profit, raise the privacy and security concerns in his cautious support of the idea. He noted that there needs to be more information about who has access to the data and what kinds of data should be used.

Beside bias and ethical issues that AI could pose, Roschelle cautioned about the potential harms AI could present, including misdetecting a child’s behavior, resulting in potential educational setbacks.

To utilize the technology and ensure education outcomes, Sharad Sundararajan, co-founder of learning company Merlyn Minds, touched on the need for AI training. As Merlyn Minds provides digital assistant technology to educators, he noted the company’s focus on training teachers and students on various forms of AI tech to enhance user experience.

There is an “appetite” from schools that are calling for this, said Sundararajan. As policy makers contemplate a strategic vision for AI in the classroom, he added that AI adoption in the classroom around the country will require algorithmic work, company partnerships, and government efforts for the best AI success.

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