America Achieve’s Broadband Initiative

Overview

America Achieves is a national non-profit organization that incubates, scales, and spins off non-profit initiatives and organizations; advises and shapes large-scale philanthropy and public policy; and helps to drive improvements at scale in education and skill development.

A major initiative of America Achieve focuses on high-speed internet access for all–broadband equity, access and deployment to create and expand a diverse broadband workforce with good jobs and career pathways.

In June 2022, America Achieves produced a report: Creating and Expanding a Diverse Broadband Workforce with Good Jobs and Career Pathways: Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment – known as BEAD) in partnership with Rural Innovation Strategies Inc. The report examines the need for the development of a robust and diverse workforce with the skills to take on good jobs across the broadband industry. The report outlines how states and territories can use new federal investments (and other dollars) to meet that important, time-sensitive goal, among others. The report includes an original broadband workforce analysis, prepared by Emsi Burning Glass and supported by America Achieves, that details national-level, critical broadband workforce occupations and their credential requirements, as well as a range of potential broadband career pathways for workers. The report is supported by Schmidt Futures.

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, signed into law in 2021, allocated a one-time $42.5 billion  investment in broadband expansion through the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program at the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), an agency within the Department of Commerce. The BEAD Program “provides federal funding for grants to Eligible Entities (states and territories) for broadband planning, deployment, mapping, equity, and adoption activities.”  In 2022, the NTIA issued a Notice of Funding Opportunity for the BEAD program that workforce development is a critical component of state plans and applications for funding.

The 2022 report served as a playbook for states and territories as they completed applications and plans for the BEAD Program–and more generally as they ensure a skilled workforce that is deployed to make broadband access possible. It also details the ways that other key stakeholders (e.g., employers, federal agencies, higher education institutions, training providers, intermediaries, and labor organizations) can play a critical role to develop the workforce necessary to expand broadband to all.

The report compiles and builds on best practices in the U.S. in both broadband expansion and workforce development, with examples from OhioVermont, and others, as well as sectoral training evidence from Harvard and more.

Six categories of steps states and territories should consider to ensure they have the broadband workforce they need are highlighted in the report.

Employers are critical to creating a broadband workforce development ecosystem that benefits employers, workers, and residents in need of broadband alike. The report provides ways employers can contribute.

The broadband workforce analysis by EMSI Burning Glass details national-level broadband workforce occupations and their credential requirements, as well as pathways into those high-demand occupations in the broadband sector. The report recommends the development of career pathways to help with recruitment and as a tool for workers in the sectors. The 2021 data identified the top in-demand occupations in the broadband sector: telecommunications equipment installers and repairers, except line installers; telecommunications line installers and repairers; electrical power-line installers and repairers; electronics engineers, except computer; Radio, cellular and tower equipment installers and repairers; helpers—installation, maintenance and repair workers

At present, the typical broadband worker is a prime-age (25 to 54 years old) non-Hispanic white male without a four-year college degree. Compared to the general workforce, broadband workers are more male, older, and have less formal education. The telecommunications sector is also struggling with a retiring workforce without enough new, younger workers coming in to replace them. New investments are needed to meet upcoming shortages and diversify the workforce.

Resources

https://americaachieves.org/

https://americaachieves.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/America-Achieves-Broadband-Workforce-Report-June-2022.pdf

https://ruralinnovationstrategies.com/

KEY COMPONENTS

STAKEHOLDER GROUPS

INITIATIVE LAUNCH YEAR

20202022

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