Fierce Telecom teams with TIA to solve broadband workforce problem

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Fierce Telecom, a publication of Questex, has partnered with the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) to solve the major workforce shortage that is about to plague the telecommunications industry.

The industry is on the cusp of a once-in-a-lifetime infrastructure build-out to bring high-speed broadband to all unserved and underserved locales in the United States. But there is one glaring problem: there is a worker shortage at a time when thousands of workers are going to be needed to deploy telecommunications infrastructure.

David Stehlin, CEO at TIA, said, “We recognize that there’s a big gap in the industry that we want to fill by creating a program to attract and train the younger generation to overcome a massive infrastructure challenge. We’re calling it a mission, not just a job, but a mission to help the whole United States.”

Kevin Gray, VP of Technology, Media and Telecom with Questex, said, “It’s a big challenge we’re trying to address. There are 200,000 jobs that need to be filled by trained people in order to hit government timelines.”

There are a few reasons why it’s currently difficult to attract enough workers to the telecom field. One is simple awareness. The general populace is not aware of the massive broadband build-out that is about to happen. There’s also a lot of fragmentation in the approach to hiring. And potential employees are not provided with a clear path on how to obtain the necessary training to work in telecom.

Fierce Telecom and TIA plan to launch a web portal named "Broadband Nation" in March 2024 that will provide a home-base of information to attract, train and deliver the next-generation of telecom workers.

The portal will include information about training opportunities that are available through community colleges and vocational schools as well as certifications offered through telecom vendors, third-party contractors and other training programs. In addition, there will be links to job opportunities on the portal and custom content related to professions in telecom.

Fierce Telecom and TIA plan to reach out and partner with myriad stakeholders in the industry to bring everyone together on this mission to fill the telecom jobs of the future.

“The program is uniting government and industry to attract talent at a local and grass-roots level,” said Gray. “We’re going to aggregate it by working with the states and industry leaders so it’s a one-stop shop for everybody.”

Stehlin said the portal will be a resource for a wide variety of telecom careers, running the gamut from entry-level jobs laying fiber to skilled jobs dealing with fiber optics and wireless gear, all the way up to IT professionals.

The portal and related marketing will stress the fact that these jobs fulfill an important mission for the United States – to bring broadband to everyone and to lift people. And for the telecom workers themselves, they can know that their work matters: to help children with their education, to bring healthcare to those in remote regions and to advance good career opportunities across the nation.

Urvi Shah, head of marketing at TIA, said with all the funding going into broadband, there’s a need for cooperation across the industry. Of the initiative between Fierce Telecom and TIA, she said, “It’s a win for the states that have to get this done; it’s a win for the industry, which is short of the skilled workforce; it’s a win for the academic institutions we’re trying to bring into the fold; and it’s a win for the federal government who has initiated this mission. It’s a historic time for us all to step up.”

Broadband Nation Expo

In addition to their partnership to solve the telco workforce challenge, Fierce Telecom and TIA are also partnering for an industry event.

At this week’s U.S. Broadband Summit in Washington, D.C. — hosted by Fierce Telecom — many leaders from state and federal broadband offices have gathered with industry service providers and vendors to discuss the rollout of Broadband Equity, Access & Deployment (BEAD) funds. This year’s inaugural event has been incredibly popular. But next year’s will be even bigger because Fierce Telecom will partner with TIA for the 2024 event, which will be re-branded as “Broadband Nation Expo” and held October 9-11, 2024 at the Gaylord Convention Center in Washington, D.C.

Broadband Nation Expo will be technology agnostic, featuring all potential access technologies such as fiber, fixed wireless, DOCSIS and satellite. A special feature of Broadband Nation Expo will be the Workforce Development Pavilion, which will host academic institutions from around the country.