The state of Maine’s workforce may be unprepared for the expansion and deployment of broadband around the state, highlighting an issue that other states also are likely to be facing.
In a report released by the Maine Connectivity Authority (MCA) earlier this month, the MCA projects an annual shortage of more than 3,600 workers in what it calls the “Top Broadband Occupations… even without additional investment in broadband.”
With the increase in broadband deployment expected in the wake of several state and federal grants, the MCA report estimates the actual shortage to reach “an annual average of 3,624 to 4,531 workers.”
Considering that Maine is the nation’s 43rd most populous state, the broadband worker shortage may be even greater in states with larger populations.
Broadband Worker Shortage
The report lists a dozen occupations “critical for broadband,” running the gamut from telecommunications line installers to software developers, customer service reps to radio, cellular, and tower equipment installers.
While there is adequate training for the more general occupations on the list, the report specifically identifies a shortage of fiber training programs, although various organizations, including Northwood Technical College, the Fiber Broadband Association and others are establishing new programs.
The state currently has only two such programs, which are both in the pilot stage and are offered by Maine’s community colleges.
The report concludes with four strategies to address the coming broadband workforce shortage:
- Promoting broadband career awareness
- Creating new training programs and career paths for broadband jobs
- Drawing on partnerships with staffing agencies and reaching out to underrepresented communities to establish “a talent pipeline”
- Reducing barriers to hiring new employees and employee retention
The MCA’s report is a wake-up call for Maine and other states, particularly (as the report argues) because “broadband occupations are not clearly understood.”
The report about the broadband worker shortage in Maine should spur other states to examine the readiness of their workforce and their available broadband-specific training program. This attention is needed today to meet the demands of tomorrow’s wave of broadband expansion.