On Nov. 2 in Washington D.C., NTCA–The Rural Broadband Association announced new partnerships with organizations leading efforts to create a 21st century workforce in rural America and focused on helping the U.S. build a better broadband future.
The announcement came as NTCA chief executive officer Shirley Bloomfield joined a White House event highlighting commitments made under the Biden administration’s Talent Pipeline Challenge, a call to action for employers, education and training providers and others to support equitable workforce development in critical infrastructure sectors such as broadband.
Concurrently NTCA announced three partnerships with Northwood Technical College, the National Rural Education Association (NREA), and the Communications Workers of America (CWA) to create training, apprenticeship and education opportunities for rural America’s broadband workforce and K-12 students.
The efforts seek to prepare for immediate growth in the broadband industry because of significant funding for network deployment in the Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act, as well as future demand for high-tech jobs.
“It has been gratifying to see NTCA members working so fast and furiously to build out broadband to communities still waiting for robust service. Yet, the work is never done. Whether it is installs, upgrades, or maintenance, there is certainly more than enough work to go around. That is why it is fitting that NTCA is stepping up to help increase the number and skills of broadband workers. Especially given retention and recruitment in rural markets is more challenging than urban markets, we are proud to be working with Northwood Tech, NREA, and CWA to support the broadband providers we represent and the communities they live in and serve.”
Specifics of the new partnerships are as follows:
- Northwood Technical College, based in northern Wisconsin, will provide NTCA member companies across the country online access to Northwood’s Broadband Academy courses and library and a “Digital Badging” program in which students may enroll on an individual course-by-course basis or complete the full program. NTCA and Northwood also plan to create a common template for apprenticeship-like training, modeled after the Northwood Tech apprenticeship program, which will serve as a guide for NTCA member companies’ offering of supervised work experience and mentoring to students who concurrently enroll in or who have completed Northwood Tech coursework.
- NREA and NTCA will work with local broadband providers and school districts to identify existing and new curricula that correlates to broadband industry needs. This coursework will be combined with internship opportunities, “ride-alongs” and job fairs to raise awareness of careers in the broadband industry, help schools build coursework around unique needs and offer students hands-on opportunities to learn more.
- CWA and NTCA will engage community-based broadband providers to make apprenticeship programs accessible to NTCA member companies with CWA workforces and offer these companies the opportunity to have employees participate in an OSHA 10 training course delivered by OSHA-authorized CWA trainers who are broadband technicians themselves. Carrying an OSHA 10 card is of great benefit to job seekers, as certain job sites require these credentials.