Apprenticeship Programs Important for Telecommunications Workforce, Agency Leaders Say

The infrastructure bill includes money to put toward building a technical workforce for the future of broadband.

Apprenticeship Programs Important for Telecommunications Workforce, Agency Leaders Say
Photo of Secretary Martin Walsh at the TWIG kickoff webinar.

WASHINGTON, March 8, 2022 – Apprenticeship programs are essential to developing the skilled telecommunication workforce required to support the future of broadband, key government and agency leaders said Tuesday.

“5G networks cannot be built without a highly skilled workforce, but many companies report a shortage of highly skilled workers,” said Federal Communications Commissioner Geoffrey Starks. “I expect that the working group will consider the importance of apprenticeship programs.”

Starks was referring to the Telecommunications Workforce Interagency Group and made the comments during the group’s inaugural webcast on Tuesday. The group, which was created out of the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act to address workforce needs of the telecom industry, featured leaders from the FCC, the Department of Labor, the Department of Education, and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

The IIJA includes money for funding workforce training. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo previously said this funding is crucial for the “ranks of electricians and technicians and folks who are…deploying the fiber in America.”

“Telecom infrastructure jobs like power technicians, small cell technicians, utility technicians are exactly the kind of economic opportunities needed in the wake of the pandemic,” Starks said.

FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr added that “we need more energy put behind this if we are going to wrap up 20,000 additional tower climbers. We could add about 20,000 additional tele-climbers right now.”

Ohio’s Lt. Governor Jon Husted announced late last year the launch of Telecommunications Tower Technician programs at several colleges in the state in an effort to “eliminate barriers to expanding Ohio’s broadband and 5G infrastructure,” he said.

NTIA head Alan Davidson said Tuesday that in order to “build out broadband, we are going to need a highly skilled, diverse workforce that can safely do their jobs.”

Secretary of labor Martin Walsh noted at the Tuesday meeting that her department has awarded over $160 million for apprenticeships last year.

“We need to think about the workforce of the future and how our skill development will support system integration, software development and more,” said FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel on Tuesday.