Creating and Expanding a Diverse Broadband Workforce with Good Jobs and Career Pathways

The Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program's Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) includes workforce development as a critical component of state plans and applications for funding—and appropriately so, as creating good jobs and developing the broadband workforce necessary to deliver on this historic investment is a critical first step for any state or territory seeking to expand broadband to its unserved and underserved residents. Most states have not yet prioritized a workforce development strategy to support broadband implementation, and the Department of Commerce is absolutely right to require a workforce plan as part of larger broadband plans needed to secure federal funding. Without a job-ready workforce on needed timelines, projects may be delayed over the long term or, worse, impossible to realize. A deep dive into the research—and interviews with several dozen key stakeholders in the field—makes several points clear. First, we as a nation likely do not have a large or diverse enough workforce to make good on this investment—without taking significant steps, including engaging unemployed and underemployed workers from this sector and adjacent sectors. This is especially true in the communities and regions that need it the most. Moreover, the country will need to grow and diversify the current broadband workforce, including by re-engaging workers who have left the field, to meet the steep and sudden increase in broadband funding. Finally, workforce development, if not appropriately addressed now, will be a bottleneck issue for expanding broadband to the millions of people who need it.

This report recommends six categories of important steps BEAD applicants should consider taking, beginning immediately.

  1. Appoint a Broadband Workforce Director and Staff and Develop a Broadband Workforce Strategic Plan;
  2. Convene Employers and Other Key Stakeholders To Advance Meaningful Collaboration and Mutual Commitments;
  3. Collect, Analyze, and Use Current and Needed Broadband Workforce Data;
  4. Identify Additional Funding Sources to Support Broadband Workforce Development;
  5. Working with Employers, Build and Scale Evidence-Based Programs and Practices with Measurable Job Outcomes to Train New and Existing Broadband Workers; and
  6. Recruit And Grow A Skilled, Diverse Broadband Workforce

Creating and Expanding a Diverse Broadband Workforce with Good Jobs and Career Pathways: Broadband Equity, Access, and Deploymen press release fact sheet