Broadband Sector Partnerships for Workforce Development

Broadband Sector Partnerships
for Workforce Development

States are receiving the largest ever federal investment in broadband expansion through the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program. This investment will help them connect the unconnected and modernize their economies, but only if they have the broadband workforce to get the job done.

To that end, NTIA requires states to include strategies to ensure an available and highly-skilled workforce in their proposals for the BEAD program. Within these strategies, states must include plans to develop and promote sector-based partnerships for broadband workforce development. These partnerships bring together relevant stakeholders from government, industry, and education to develop, implement, and promote workforce training programs.

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration outlines industry-led sector-based partnerships as a best practice for building broadband training and workforce development programs.

An effective sector-based partnership or “Broadband Sector Partnership” needs support from an “industry intermediary.” An industry intermediary is an entity that convenes stakeholders from the broadband industry, government, and higher education to identify labor needs, skills gaps and broadband demands. Based on those needs and talent gaps, the industry intermediary will help develop curricula and implement education and training programs to meet the state’s broadband workforce needs.

With the right focus on creating good jobs that offer fair compensation, a safe workplace, equitable access, and opportunities for long-term advancement, state Broadband Sector Partnerships can have lasting positive economic, social, and health benefits across the state.  

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As an experienced industry intermediary, WIA can support states in executing the following steps to develop and oversee an effective Broadband Sector Partnership.

Step One

Meet with Industry, Education, and Training Provider Stakeholders Within the State

States will need to convene stakeholders to understand the challenges faced by the broadband ecosystem, including existing broadband resources and workforce development. From there, states and stakeholders together can determine education and training needs.

These stakeholders include: 

  • Telecommunications/broadband construction companies and industry associations
  • Career Technical and Vocational Centers, Community Colleges, and Workforce Boards 
  • State Broadband Office, Workforce Development Office, and Department of Higher Education
  • Four-Year Institutions of Higher Education

How WIA can help

WIA specializes in translating the needs of employers to government, education, and training providers.  WIA leverages insights from our industry and association members, which have a presence in all 50 states. WIA regularly mobilizes industry stakeholders to develop training and career pathways for the telecommunications industry. We can bring this experience to your Broadband Sector Partnership.

WIA can facilitate and lead stakeholder meetings to make sure states understand the challenges facing the broadband industry.

Step Two

Develop a Strategic Broadband Workforce Development Plan and Initial Proposal

States will draft a report that identifies broad goals for broadband workforce development. The report should outline working groups of relevant stakeholders dedicated to achieving these goals.

For BEAD applications, states must use NTIA technical resources to create narrative broadband reports and develop Five-Year Action Plans and Initial Proposals. This Action Plan and Initial Proposal must include plans for workforce development strategies. Some states will need to create new reports while other states will be able to rework existing reports.

How WIA can help

WIA worked alongside Ohio to develop a report and strategy for increasing Ohio’s broadband workforce (See: Strengthening Ohio’s Broadband & 5G Workforce). 

WIA can support states in creating broadband reports and strategies to help them assess the training needs of the state. That way, states can set up a Broadband Sector Partnership capable of delivering the right solutions for a highly-skilled, diverse broadband workforce.  WIA can support states in considering how certain populations, like low-income, veterans, individuals with a language barrier, racial minorities, rural inhabitants, and Tribal populations, can benefit from broadband workforce training as a pathway to a new technology career.

Step Three

Select an Industry Intermediary to Establish and Lead a Broadband Sector Partnership

To establish and lead their Broadband Sector Partnerships, states will need to identify an industry intermediary as well as an academic institution(s) to lead the partnership. 

The industry intermediary will help the academic institution(s):

  • Create an industry advisory board with key employers in the state 
  • Create working groups and map their tasks to the high-level goals identified in the state’s strategic broadband workforce development plan
  • Manage working group tasks, progress, and reporting to achieve partnership goals
  • Assist the state broadband office in identifying existing in-state funding resources to help employers offset training costs

For more information, see the NTIA Handbook on Workforce Development Plans.

How WIA can help

WIA can serve as an industry intermediary to help states establish and lead their Broadband Sector Partnerships in achieving broadband workforce development goals. 

In Ohio, WIA serves as the industry intermediary for the state’s Broadband and 5G Sector Partnership alongside the Partnership host, The Ohio State University. 

Working with WIA member companies and leveraging our experience liaising between industry and government, WIA helped organize key stakeholders in Ohio into working groups for the state’s Broadband and 5G Sector Partnership. 

WIA leads Ohio’s Partnership by directing working group activities around short-, medium-, and long-term goals. These goals are derived from the broad goals identified in Ohio’s strategic broadband workforce development plan.

Ohio’s Broadband and 5G Sector Partnership broad goals:

  • Industry Career Awareness
  • Education and Training Programs
  • State and Federal Funding

WIA can map tasks to broad sector partnership goals and assign tasks to working groups. By working towards short-term goals among the working groups, WIA can ensure flexibility and regular input from key stakeholders to create the right workforce solutions for your state.

In addition to BEAD, states are also eligible to participate in the Digital Equity Planning Grant (DE Planning) Program, which shares BEAD’s objective of closing the digital divide. States should view their projects funded by both programs as complementary efforts. NTIA encourages states to align the development of the BEAD Five-Year Action Plan with the Digital Equity Plan they will develop under the DE Planning Program.

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