The Wireless Infrastructure Association (WIA) has received a $6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor (DoL) to expand its telecom apprenticeship program. The grant is supplemented by more than $9 million in matching support from industry, including cash and in-kind contributions from WIA, PCCA, Ditch Witch, FS3, and participating employers, for a total commitment to apprenticeship of $15 million in a public-private partnership.
“I’m thrilled that DoL has recognized the critical role of tower techs, linemen, and other 5G workers in building our country’s information infrastructure and has provided new resources to expand that workforce,” said FCC Commissioner Bendan Carr. “The training offered at technical schools and through apprenticeships gives students a path up towers and into the middle class with only a couple of months in the classroom.”
The grant will provide the funding to design curricula and deliver training to develop qualified applicants for placement in middle- to high-skilled jobs nationwide that will accelerate 5G deployment. A consortium of public and private partners with 33 small and mid-sized employers have committed to create more than 5,500 new apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeships, targeting veterans, transitioning service members, military spouses, women, people of color, the unemployed, underemployed and other underrepresented populations.
The program will be led by WIA and delivered through the Telecommunications Industry Registered Apprenticeship (TIRAP) program, of which WIA is the national sponsor. TIRAP is a public-private partnership with the DOL, which is multi-employer apprenticeship program focused on developing the 5G workforce. Five schools have committed to the program, as well, including: State Technical College of Missouri, Terra State Community College (Ohio), Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College, Monroe County Community College (Mich.), and Somerset Community College (Ky.).
The DoL awarded grants to 28 public-private apprenticeship partnerships totaling nearly $100 million to support large-scale expansions of apprenticeship in industries, including advanced manufacturing, healthcare and information technology.
Separately, WIA pledged its support for a public-private partnership between Tower Engineering Professionals (TEP), the NATE — the Communications Infrastructure Contractors Association, the National Wireless Safety Alliance (NWSA), and Wake Technical Community College (WTCC) to develop curricula and train and certify Tower Technicians and develop apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeships.
Apprenticeship Programs Attempt to Fill 6.4 Million Openings
President Donald J. Trump’s Executive Order on Expanding Apprenticeship in America called for increasing the number of apprentices in the United States across all industries. There are more than 6.4 million job openings reported in the United States and expanding apprenticeships will help individuals gain the skills necessary to fill these vacancies.
“These grants will further the Administration’s efforts to expand apprenticeships. For Americans who want an alternative to the traditional bachelor’s degree, apprenticeships are a way to learn valuable skills that lead to good paying careers,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia. “Companies across the country tell me that their greatest challenge today is finding the skilled workers they need. This funding will bolster America’s competitiveness by adding more skilled workers to fill millions of open jobs today and in the future.”
Secretary Scalia made the announcement during a trip to North Carolina State University, one of the grantees.
The “Apprenticeship: Closing the Skills Gap” grant program will support the training of more than 92,000 individuals in new or expanded apprenticeship programs for a range of employers, including small and medium-sized businesses, veterans, military spouses, service members re-entering the civilian workforce and groups underrepresented in current apprenticeship programs, including women and Americans reentering the workforce from the justice system.
The grant program supports apprenticeships that include a paid, work-based learning component and a required educational or instructional component that results in the issuance of an industry-recognized credential; and which meet appropriate quality assurance standards.