In order to address the broadband workforce shortage, the Colorado Broadband Office (CBO) and the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment’s Office of Future Work (OFW) have released their plan to tackle a major obstacle hindering broadband deployment across the state.
State leaders said the new Broadband Workforce Plan is “vital to successfully distributing $826.5 million from the Federal Broadband, Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) funding program.”
In a press release, state leaders explained that over the next five to seven years, BEAD-funded projects will create more than 3,000 jobs in Colorado.
“We must address the potential labor shortage and its impact on BEAD deployment and timelines. We need to solve this real problem before opening the Advance-BEAD grant program next year,” the CBO and OFW said in a press release.
Workforce Plan Overview
To develop the plan, CBO and OFW worked with industry providers and labor unions to understand their needs and challenges. The state organizations found that:
- There is agreement among stakeholders that there is a strong need to create careers in construction and telecommunications.
- Stakeholders must assess and measure effective training and placement programs for telecom and construction.
- Key to developing the work force will be reviving apprenticeship programs.
- There is a need to raise awareness of job opportunities in telecommunications and broadband.
According to the plan, state leaders and broadband industry stakeholders must evaluate the current workforce and identify job roles lacking enough people for broadband projects. Specifically, software engineers, trenchers, laborers, material movers, surveyors, drafters, master electricians, stage electricians, fiber technicians, and wireless technicians are the immediate job roles that need filling.
Additionally, stakeholders need to evaluate current options like rewards programs, employee funding and education that can be used now to grow the workforce. Additionally, stakeholders need to:
- Test and deploy training programs, particularly those that diversify the workforce.
- Bolster incentives for existing apprenticeship programs.
- Support programs that promote diversity and address the unique needs of Native American communities, low-income individuals, and formerly incarcerated individuals.
While stakeholders do need to focus on current options to grow the workforce, state leaders also urge an eye to the future to continue developing the workforce pipeline. This will include:
- Working with local high schools, colleges, and universities to develop certification programs and degrees for construction and telecom jobs.
- Focusing on community engagement.
- Supporting for industry curriculum development.