Energy & Commerce Communications and Technology Subcommittee Vice Chair Doris Matsui (D-CA) and Congressman Brett Guthrie (R-KY), Co-Chairs of the Congressional Spectrum Caucus, sent a letter to the Department of Labor (DoL) urging Secretary Alexander Acosta to take the necessary steps to support a workforce capable of deploying next generation broadband networks, such as 5G.
Calling the workforce goal “critical,” Matsui and Guthrie stated: “We believe the Department of Labor (DoL) has an important role to play in promoting continued U.S. leadership by supporting the development of a qualified workforce ready to assist in the deployment of next generation broadband networks. In turn, this will produce more competitive workers and ensure new and emerging wireless technologies reach Americans across the country more quickly.”
They asked Acosta to detail any steps DoL is taking to support and advance specific 5G training or apprenticeship programs.
Wireless Infrastructure Association President/CEO Jonathan Adelstein said it’s, “imperative to equip a workforce with the necessary skills to efficiently deploy 5G networks. We cannot let the lack of a trained workforce slow the path to 5G, and this letter acutely addresses key steps necessary to produce a trained 5G workforce.”
WIA has been actively working to address wireless training issues through what it says is the only apprenticeship program focused on 5G workforce development, the Telecommunications Industry Registered Apprenticeship Program. WIA serves as its National Sponsor.
Both WIA and the National Association of Tower Erectors agree the DoL will play an important role in workforce training. NATE Executive Director Todd Schlekeway told Inside Towers, the association is encouraged the industry’s labor shortage and workforce development priorities continue to gain the attention of key leaders in D.C., including FCC Commissioners and members of Congress. He noted the Matsui/Guthrie letter contains many of the same workforce development themes that NATE members discussed with lawmakers on Capitol Hill during its recent member fly-in event.
“NATE believes the bipartisan Communications Jobs Training Act of 2019 legislation that has been introduced in the 116th Congress can help provide the initial infusion of funding necessary over the next three years to help kick-start the industry’s training and job creation initiatives. Additionally, NATE is hopeful that the U.S. Department of Labor can work with industry and lawmakers to get TIRAP moving in a positive direction,” added Schlekeway.
“Despite having potential, TIRAP has not taken off with employers due to the bureaucratic red tape and lagging funding mechanisms associated with the program. This will have to be addressed if this industry-specific apprenticeship program is going to ever move the needle from a workforce perspective,” Schlekeway.
Tilson CEO Joshua Broder told members of a House subcommittee last week, his company has had trouble navigating the administrative requirements to be reimbursed for employees participating in TIRAP, Inside Towers reported. Overall, he characterized industry participation in apprentice programs as “fractured,” meaning uneven.
June 12, 2019