Conference Hears Need for Apprenticeship Program to Address Telecom Workforce Shortage

Both the federal and state governments need to step up their support for apprenticeship programs.

Conference Hears Need for Apprenticeship Program to Address Telecom Workforce Shortage
Photo of Davis Miller chief operating officer at Backbone Fiber Systems from his Linkedin profile

DENVER, Colorado, August 9, 2023 – Industry leaders reiterated a call at the Mountain Connect summit on Tuesday for more government assistance with implementing apprenticeship programs to address workforce shortages in the telecommunications industry.

Panelists expressed concerns over the lack of skilled labor to build out internet networks, especially in light of the $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment funding that will make its way to states in the upcoming years.

Danny Reed, CEO of the Telecom Tech School — a Colorado-based program that offers on-site training for practitioners since 2021 — attributed the shortage to an aging workforce, with the majority of workers being between the ages of 35 and 64, and a decline in experienced workers who left during COVID and have not returned.

Duke Horan, president of Bonfire Engineering and Construction, the execution arm of industry association Bonfire Infrastructure Group, added: “When you don’t have the skilled labor that’s already trained, it makes it much more difficult to bring in the untrained folks,” and training young workers from the ground up would require considerable time and resources from the companies.

But there are subsidies available to assist with this, he continued, pointing to various federal and state-wide initiatives that give financing for telecom businesses to develop apprenticeship programs.

However, those funds are not always easy to get, Horan said, urging the federal government to issue clear guidelines for industry-level leaders to access such grants and make the most use of the money.

Getting down to the local level, another way to fill up the limited labor pool is to start introducing telecom or fiber education from a young age, particularly at the high school or vocational school level, added Davis Miller, chief operating officer at telecom contractor Backbone Fiber Systems.

Salvador Acuna, CEO of strategic development company Co Create LLC, nodded along, highlighting the importance of involving youth in the community and generating “excitement” about the programs in order to attract additional workers.

As detailed in the Infrastructure, Investment and Jobs Act, states can allocate a portion of their BEAD funds towards workforce development. While many states are currently working on their initial proposals for funding allocation, multiple industry experts have advised state authorities to allocate resources to build up essential human capital and engage young individuals in preparation for the future workforce.

Popular Tags