The Fiber Broadband Association (FBA) last week announced that ihas published its Workforce Development Guidebook, billed as a comprehensive resource for state broadband offices (SBOs), state and local workforce/economic development boards, and other equivalent agencies as they formulate workforce development strategies for deploying fiber infrastructure per the NTIA’s $42.45 billion Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program opportunity.
FBA contends that the sudden, historic influx of public funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and BEAD Program initiatives will spur an unprecedented amount of construction activity -- creating a nationwide demand for skilled labor far beyond what the current workforce can support. Meanwhile, FBA’s Workforce Development Guidebook notes that, according to the government’s calculations, 150,000 telecom jobs will be created by BEAD. Research by the Fiber Broadband Association estimates the industry will need over 205,000 new jobs in the next five years to construct, operate, and maintain these new networks in every state.
Deborah Kish, vice president of research and workforce development for the Fiber Broadband Association, remarked:
“The importance of BEAD and complexity of issues facing the broadband industry cannot be left to chance. Our Workforce Development Guide provides a formula that state broadband offices can follow to guarantee their Five-Year Action Plans address workforce development alongside planned miles and materials so they can successfully administer BEAD deployment programs. Due to the scale and complexity of BEAD, even states with experience deploying broadband programs will encounter new challenges in planning for BEAD. This Guidebook will enable them to build a comprehensive approach with a state workforce development strategy that invests in skills and training and ensures success for individuals and for service providers.”
FBA in a May 11 press release notes that, in anticipation of labor shortages, NTIA included workforce planning requirements in its Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO), forcing states to consider on the front end how to ensure enough high-skilled workers are available to deliver funded projects.
NTIA's requirements outline key components of a workforce plan that states must consider and respond to in their Five-Year Action Plans, including training and workforce development activities, skilled workforce activities, labor and employment laws, and contracting requirements.
While those components are instrumental to creating a prosperous workforce ecosystem, FBA emphasizes that the Workforce Development Guidebook primarily focuses on training and upskilling activities. According to the association, the guidebook provides context on the telecommunications landscape, broadband workforce development, and practical guidance on how to craft and deploy an effective workforce development strategy.
As explained by Gary Bolton, president and CEO of the Fiber Broadband Association:
“Beyond safeguarding the delivery of broadband to the millions of Americans that are currently without access, broadband workforce development goes to the heart of the IIJA – creating quality jobs for U.S. workers in local communities across the nation. There is a lot of focus placed on building broadband networks, but we cannot build them without a proper workforce. Failure to ensure the availability of high-skilled labor will result in workforce bottlenecks, which will ultimately lead to higher costs and project delays.”
The Fiber Broadband Association will present highlights from the Workforce Development Guidebook in a webinar on May 18 at 1:00 pm EDT. You can register for the webinar here.
The following recent video from FBA kicks off a series such videos explaining the IIJA’s BEAD program to broadband grant applicants.