Five U.S. Senators, led by John Thune (R-SD), Tuesday reintroduced the Telecommunications Skilled Workforce Act, legislation to address the shortage of trained workers necessary to fill next-generation jobs in telecom. S. 3355 is aimed at encouraging apprenticeships to grow a workforce adept at building 5G wireless networks.
Last year’s bill called for the Labor secretary to issue guidance to states on how to bolster these workforce efforts, in consultation with the FCC chair. The new version puts the FCC in charge of doing that, in consultation with the Labor secretary.
An FCC-led interagency working group, in consultation with the Department of Labor (DOL) and other federal and non-federal stakeholders, would develop recommendations to address the workforce shortage. The group is expanded under the new measure and would identify federal resources available to states for workforce development efforts.
The measure specifies the guidance must be issued within nine months of the bill’s enactment. The Government Accountability Office would conduct a study to determine how many skilled telecom workers are needed to build and maintain broadband infrastructure in rural areas as well as 5G builds.
Thune called the measure “a win-win when it comes to deploying 5G technology and rural broadband services.” He’s joined in the effort by Sens. Jon Tester (D-MT), Roger Wicker (R-MA), Gary Peters (D-MI), and Jerry Moran (R-KS), members of the Senate Commerce Committee.
Industry is behind the effort. “Workforce development remains a top priority for the association’s member companies and it is great to see this bi-partisan group of U.S. Senators come out of the gate strong in the 117th Congress through the introduction of this legislation,” said Todd Schlekeway, President and CEO of NATE: The Communications Infrastructure Contractors Association.
NATE believes the provisions outlined in the bill “can serve as a springboard to fostering greater collaboration between the federal government, state workforce boards, higher education and industry to accomplish the ultimate goal of developing a future pipeline of skilled technicians that the country sorely needs to meet its ambitious broadband and 5G deployment objectives,” Schlekeway added.