The U.S. government has predicted its broadband funding efforts – including the $42.5 billion Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program – will create more than 150,000 new jobs over the coming years. Now, federal officials are shedding more light on what they want those jobs to look like and how exactly states can help create them.
In a newly released Workforce Planning Guide, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) laid out requirements and recommendations for states to follow as they create broadband plans and vet grant applicants seeking money from federally funded programs. The guide reiterates several obligations outlined in the agency’s earlier Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO), including that grantees must use a highly skilled workforce, promote diversity, engage with and allow the formation of unions, and offer benefits as well as pay which exceeds the local prevailing wage.
In a statement, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo specifically called out a desire to hire more women in the telecommunications industry. “We have an opportunity to diversify our workforce so it looks like America,” she said. “These good jobs are the foundation of an equitable economy that lifts up workers and families and makes businesses more competitive globally.” The NTIA is part of the Commerce Department.
But the NTIA’s guide also provides advice for states who might not know where to start when it comes to developing a workforce plan for BEAD or other programs. BEAD funding is set to be divvied up between the states, which will then be tasked with awarding it to operators and other entities looking for project funding.
Specifically, the guide recommends states form a dedicated workforce team and designate specific individuals as the leads for job planning and NOFO expertise. It also encourages states to compile an overview of workforce laws, regulations and skilled workforce standards – including wages, contracting and labor coordination provisions – as well as workforce needs across all infrastructure programs to get the best picture of their labor needs. The guide notes that network buildouts will require not just specialized telecom workers but also construction laborers, electrical workers, project managers and customer service representatives.
Once a full picture has emerged, the guide recommends states outline specific, measurable and attainable goals for their workforce programs. These may span workforce demographics, workforce and training expansions, and timelines.
The guide indicates that states should have their workforce planning team in place by the time they submit their five-year action plan for BEAD funding. States must submit their five-year plans 270 days after they receive planning funds from NTIA. Thus far, only two states – Ohio and Louisiana – have received their planning grants.
To read this article on Fierce Telecom, please visit: https://www.fiercetelecom.com/broadband/ntia-fleshes-out-bead-workforce-requirements-new-guide