IMPACT Act Looks to Boost Minority Participation in Telecom

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WASHINGTON—The Improving Minority Participation and Careers in Telecommunications (IMPACT) Act has been introduced into the Senate by Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Tim Scott (R-S.C.). The bill is designed to provide funds to minority-serving institutions to develop job training programs for students.

The IMPACT Act would create the Telecommunications Workforce Training Grant Program, which would provide $100 million in grants from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) and other minority-serving institutions for these training and education programs. NTIA would be required to split the grants up equally, with at least 30% going to HBCUs and at least another 30% to TCUs. The bill would also require that schools apply for grants in order to partner with industry organizations to develop these programs. 

The grants could be used to hire and train faculty, design and develop the curriculum, pay for costs associated with instruction, fund internships and apprenticeships, and recruit and support students.

Other elements of the IMPACT Act require schools include a plan to increase female participation in the program and require reporting to ensure schools are using the funds as required, that students are being trained appropriately and that students are securing work in telecommunications.

“There are thousands of vacant jobs that are needed to deploy broadband networks, but we do not have a trained workforce to fill them,” said Sen. Wicker. “HBCUs and TCUs can help fill these jobs by providing career-specific opportunities for students. The IMPACT Act would support these institutions in developing telecommunications-related career building programs that will help bridge the digital divide.”

Congress previously introduced other legislation that sought to address the workforce gap in telecommunications.

NATE President and CEO Todd Schlekeway commended the bipartisan bill, saying that it “recognizes the critical importance of promoting educational and employment opportunities in the telecommunications field, which is so essential to the nation’s economy, competitiveness, security and vital communications capabilities.”

The full bill is available to read online (opens in new tab)