WASHINGTON—The House of Representatives is about to put its two cents in on expanding the telecommunications workforce, as the bipartisan Telecommunications Skilled Workforce Act has officially been introduced.
The bill was crafted by Rep. Yvette D. Clarke (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.) of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, with the stated goal of developing a workforce equipped to deploy 5G technology and broadband infrastructure in underserved communities. Companion legislation, also bipartisan, was introduced last week in the Senate.
The Telecommunications Skilled Workforce Act would:
- Establish an FCC-led interagency working group that would be tasked with developing recommendations to address the workforce needs of the telecommunications industry;
- Require the FCC, in consultation with the Department of Labor, to issue guidance on how states can address the workforce shortage in the telecommunications industry by identifying all of the federal resources currently available to them that can be used for workforce development efforts; and
- Direct the Government Accountability Office to conduct a study to determine the specific number of skilled telecommunications workers that will be required to build and maintain broadband infrastructure in rural areas and 5G wireless infrastructure needs to support 5G wireless technology.
“Deploying next generation technologies and developing a skilled workforce are critical objectives that go hand-in-hand,” said Walberg. “As rural communities experience the increasing need for high-speed broadband access, the demand for a qualified workforce to build out this infrastructure is greater than ever. I am pleased to collaborate on this bipartisan, bicameral effort to help close the skills gap, expand opportunities for good-paying jobs, and bridge the digital divide.”
“Today’s workforce must meet the need for the ever-advancing telecom industrial revolution. Women and people of color continue to face dramatic underrepresentation in this industry. This must change immediately,” said Clarke. “I am committed to championing legislation addressing workforce inequities. Ensuring an equitable workforce in our country’s race to 5G will benefit all Americans. I am proud to lead this bipartisan effort to combat workforce inequities in the telecom industry."
The proposed Telecommunications Act already has industry support.
“NATE believes that the provisions outlined in the bipartisan Telecommunications Skilled Workforce Act can serve as a springboard to fostering greater collaboration between the federal government, state workforce boards, higher education and private sector companies 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,” said Todd Schlekeway, president and CEO of NATE.
“As we are all focused on expanding connectivity and helping Americans find jobs, now is the perfect time to support workforce development in the telecommunications industry. NTCA thanks Reps. Walberg and Clarke for introducing the Telecommunications Skilled Workforce Act,” added Shirley Bloomfield, chief executive officer, NTCA-The Rural Broadband Association.
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