BEAD Funding Aims to Bolster Skilled, Diverse Broadband Workforce

One of the biggest challenges in creating training programs is finding experienced trainers to lead them.

BEAD Funding Aims to Bolster Skilled, Diverse Broadband Workforce
Screenshot of Fiber Broadband Association event panelists

WASHINGTON, December 9, 2022 — States should use funding from the Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment program to build a skilled and diverse telecommunications workforce, experts said at a Fiber Broadband Association event Wednesday.

The BEAD program provides $42 billion in federal funding for deploying and upgrading internet services, facilitating workforce training, and implementing adoption and digital equity programs.

The broadband industry is approaching a labor shortage that will likely risk states’ ability to maintain and improve internet services. Job training programs are an important eligible use of BEAD funding, said Lucy Moore, special policy advisor at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

However, one of the biggest challenges in creating these programs is finding experienced trainers to lead them.

Each state can define its own skilled workforce requirements and guidance, but they need to be able to build a competitive workforce that is prepared to meet the challenges of high-speed internet implementation.

Many states are not yet meeting this goal, and the existing workforce is aging, said Gary Bolton, president and CEO of the Fiber Broadband Association.

In order for states to address this issue, Moore suggested that they think beyond the current telecommunications workforce landscape, which is overwhelmingly made up of white men, and work to target outreach toward women and people of color. Working with community-based organizations to recruit and retain workers from historically underrepresented groups could be a key part of ending the workforce shortage.

By investing in high-speed internet, the NTIA is committed to creating jobs that offer fair compensation, a safe workplace and equitable access, Moore said.

At a Broadband Breakfast Live Online event in November, panelists discussed other strategies for building the broadband workforce, including an emphasis on long-term career advancement opportunities and wage growth.