Jobs, Jobs, Jobs
Friday, November 4, 2022
Jobs, Jobs, Jobs
You’re reading the Benton Institute for Broadband & Society’s Weekly Digest, a recap of the biggest (or most overlooked) broadband stories of the week. The digest is delivered via e-mail each Friday.
Round-Up for the Week of October 31-November 4, 2022
The U.S. jobs market remains hot—“overheated” in the words of Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell. Simply, the demand for workers far exceeds the supply. With billions of dollars in investment coming to improve America's infrastructure, will we have trained workers in place to build the broadband networks of the 21st century? Here's what is in the works to ensure we do.
Broadband and Jobs
The telecommunications industry, and particularly the wireless segment, has been warning of impending labor shortages for several years. More recently, fixed-broadband providers have flagged labor shortages as a key challenge as they press ahead with large-scale network expansion efforts.
The influx of federal funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act—as well as state, local, and private investments—is expected to exacerbate the situation as more players compete for finite resources. In February 2022, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said broadband funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act alone is expected to create between 100,000 and 200,000 jobs. To help fill those positions, she said, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration is allowing states to use their Broadband, Equity, Access & Deployment Program (BEAD) money to do apprenticeships, job training, and recruiting.
Talent Pipeline Challenge
In June 2022, the White House launched the Talent Pipeline Challenge, a nationwide call to action to support equitable workforce development focused on three critical sectors: broadband, construction, and electrification. Four laws enacted during the Biden administration—the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the CHIPS and Science Act, the Inflation Reduction Act, and the American Rescue Plan—are helping to create millions of jobs. The Talent Pipeline Challenge aims to ensure that workers across the country are trained for these jobs. This week, the White House announced the commitments of employers, unions, education and training providers, states, local governments, Tribes, territories, philanthropic organizations, and other stakeholders in response to the challenge.
This week, President Joe Biden will recognize the commitments made by more than 350 organizations in 50 states and territories in response to the challenge. Commitments made through the Challenge will expand equitable pathways into good jobs, boost opportunities for union jobs, and meet critical employer skill needs:
- Nearly 150 employers, unions, and community-based organizations will create or expand pre-apprenticeships, registered apprenticeships, and other high-quality training programs.
- More than 60 organizations will increase recruitment among workers who are traditionally underrepresented in infrastructure sectors.
- Nearly 30 organizations will provide supportive services, such as child care and transportation assistance, to help workers overcome barriers to participating in apprenticeships and other training opportunities.
- More than 50 institutions of higher education—including over 30 community colleges and five community and technical college systems—will advance equitable workforce development for infrastructure jobs.
- More than $70 million in aligned philanthropic commitments that advance the goals of the Talent Pipeline Challenge will impact tens of thousands of underrepresented workers.
Specifically, we noticed that:
- Communications Workers of America (CWA) will demonstrate fiber splicing, an essential task that joins fiber cables together and is a key part of expanding access to affordable broadband across the country.
- AT&T, Corning, and CWA are partnering to expand training and create a good jobs pipeline, including by bringing former broadband technicians back into the sector and encouraging companies engaged in AT&T and Corning training programs to attend additional safety courses, including those led by CWA.
- AT&T and CWA are creating a task force to design broadband apprenticeship programs, work with community colleges to expand career options for current employees, and streamline tuition reimbursement for AT&T’s union employees.
- Lumen Technologies will invest more than $80 million annually to hire nearly 1,000 new employees, many of them in union jobs, to support its fiber broadband expansion program and will provide hundreds of in-person, hands-on technical training sessions. Lumen also provides employees with access to backup adult care, child care, and pet care, as well as tutoring and extended family leave programs.
- Charter is increasing tuition assistance for its employees to $10,000 per year and expanding its military recruitment efforts to three additional military bases.
- NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association is partnering with Northwood Technical College, the National Rural Education Association, and the CWA to create training, apprenticeship and education opportunities for rural America’s broadband workforce and K-12 students.
The Broadband Workforce and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act
In addition to the Talent Pipeline Challenge, this week the Administration provided an overview of federal funding resources to support equitable workforce development. This involves funding included in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and key federal funding sources outside of the law to support workforce development. The guide is intended for cross-sector stakeholders, including those who are directly responsible for deploying Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding and those who are investing in and implementing workforce development strategies and programs. These include, but are not limited to state, local, and Tribal government entities, employers, unions, workforce development boards, economic development entities, industry associations, institutions of higher education including community colleges, other training providers, community-based organizations, and philanthropic organizations.
In October, the Department of Commerce's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) offered a new resource to ensure states have the necessary workforce to deploy high-speed Internet projects. The guide provides strategies to develop a highly trained, diverse workforce that can safely do their jobs to connect everyone in America to high-speed Internet.
The Workforce Planning Guide addresses lays out strategies and examples for meeting our funding’s requirements and ensuring a skilled, competitive, and diverse workforce.
- Components of a Workforce Plan: Highlights the requirements and guidance related to workforce development and fair labor standards in the BEAD NOFO.
- Developing a Workforce Plan: Provides suggested planning steps and pacing for completing grant submissions and key integration points with the Digital Equity Act programs.
- Strategies and Examples: Offers a range of approaches to meet the workforce needs and offers examples of existing programs at the Federal, state, or local level.
- Additional Resources: Provides additional resources, including a list of Federal and state agencies that can help answer questions, guiding questions and resources that help conduct a landscape analysis, and a checklist of best practices that eligible entities can use when evaluating different workforce programs.
In addition to the Workforce Planning Guide, NTIA is providing technical assistance to states and grantees on workforce requirements through public, open webinars and one-on-one meetings.
As mandated by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, back in January, the Federal Communications Commission, the Department of Labor, the Department of Education, and NTIA formed a cross-agency working group that will collaborate to identify the current and future needs of the telecommunications industry workforce, including the safety of that workforce. The Telecommunications Workforce Working Group will prepare a report to Congress identifying:
- Federal laws, regulations, guidance, policies, or practices, or any budgetary constraints, that could be amended to strengthen the ability of institutions of higher education or for-profit businesses to establish, adopt, or expand programs intended to address the workforce needs of the telecommunications industry, including the workforce needed to build and maintain the 5G wireless infrastructure necessary to support 5G wireless technology;
- Potential policies and programs that could encourage and improve coordination among Federal agencies, between Federal agencies and States, and among States, on telecommunications workforce needs;
- Ways in which existing Federal programs, including programs that help facilitate the employment of veterans and military personnel transitioning into civilian life, could be leveraged to help address the workforce needs of the telecommunications industry;
- Ways to improve recruitment in workforce development programs in the telecommunications industry;
- Federal incentives that could be provided to institutions of higher education, for-profit businesses, State workforce development boards, or other relevant stakeholders to establish or adopt new programs, expand current programs, or partner with registered apprenticeship programs, to address the workforce needs of the telecommunications industry, including such needs in rural areas;
- Ways to improve the safety of telecommunications workers, including tower climbers; and
- Ways that trends in wages, benefits, and working conditions in the telecommunications industry impact recruitment of employees in the sector.
The working group is expected to send its report to Congress in January 2023.
- FCC Committing Nearly $183 Million In Emergency Connectivity Funding
- FCC Takes Next Step to Enable Faster, Better Wi-Fi
- New hot job: State high-speed internet network director (Axios)
- We’ve been told a lie about rural America (Washington Post)
- FCC November 2022 Open Meeting Agenda
Weekend Reads (resist tl;dr)
- Meeting the Broadband Workforce Challenge (Vermont Community Broadband Board)
- Virginia’s Connected Future: A guide for funders and philanthropists to address digital divides in the Commonwealth (Virginia Funders Network)
- The stark disparity across internet access in the US (City Monitor)
- Rural Communities and the National Broadband Imperative 2022 (RuralRise)
ICYMI from Benton
- Leveraging Libraries to Advance Digital Equity (Larra Clark, Michelle Frisque)
- What's wrong with LA's internet? (Shayna Englin)
- Illinois Seeks Public Support for Broadband Plan (Kevin Taglang)
Nov 10––Meaningfully Connected: The Politics, Policies, and Polities of Digital Scarcity (University of Pennsylvania)
Nov 16––California and the FCC Unite to Eliminate Digital Discrimination (Michelson 20MM Foundation)
Nov 17––Open Federal Communications Commission Meeting (FCC)
Nov 28––Informed: Conversations on Democracy in the Digital Age (John S. and James L. Knight Foundation)
The Benton Institute for Broadband & Society is a non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring that all people in the U.S. have access to competitive, High-Performance Broadband regardless of where they live or who they are. We believe communication policy - rooted in the values of access, equity, and diversity - has the power to deliver new opportunities and strengthen communities.
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