Energy & Commerce Communications and Technology Subcommittee Vice Chair Doris Matsui (California) and Congressman Brett Guthrie (Kentucky), Co-Chairs of the Congressional Spectrum Caucus, have sent a letter to the Department of Labor (DoL) urging Secretary Alexander Acosta support the workforce in deploying next gen wireless networks, such as 5G.
“As we transition to 5G, it is critical that we ensure a highly-skilled workforce with the training necessary to efficiently deploy 5G services and infrastructure,” according to the letter. “To that end, we believe the 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.”
As DoL seeks to expand and support apprenticeship opportunities that promote American leadership, Matsui and Guthrie are calling on the secretary to specifically outline what steps are being taken to ensure that American workers are fully trained and ready to deploy the next generation of wireless broadband networks.
“Please detail for us any steps DoL is taking to support and advance specific training or apprenticeship programs that will promote U.S. efforts to win the race to 5G. As you continue to seek workforce expansion and development opportunities, the deployment of wireless technologies offers the opportunity to invest in training that will both help expand broadband access across the country and promote American leadership,” the representatives wrote.
Congressional Letter Mirrors Industry Lobbying Efforts
Todd Schlekeway, executive director of the National Association of Tower Erectors, said he is encouraged that the industry’s labor shortage is gaining attention in Washington. He noted that the Matsui/Guthrie letter echoes themes discussed by NATE members with lawmakers on Capitol Hill during our recently completed 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 3 years to help kick-start the industry’s training and job creation initiatives,” Schlekeway said.
Additionally, he said that NATE is hopeful that the DoL will promote the Telecommunications Industry Registered Apprenticeship Program (TIRAP), a joint venture with telecom companies and industry associations that makes DoL-credentialed apprenticeship programs available to employers for telecom workforce career development.
“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 said.
WIA Applauds Reps. Matsui, Guthrie on 5G Workforce Training, Apprenticeship Push
Wireless Infrastructure Association President and CEO Jonathan Adelstein said he also supports the letter to Labor Secretary Acosta.
Adelstein said, “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. The DoL will play an important role in this mission, as the letter states. WIA has been actively working to address wireless training issues through the only apprenticeship program focused on 5G workforce development, the Telecommunications Industry Registered Apprenticeship Program (TIRAP), of which WIA serves as the National Sponsor.”