An influx of government and private money dedicated to broadband is enabling service providers to set ambitious plans to upgrade networks. But many providers are discovering that the critical challenge in this endeavor is building a strong broadband labor pool.
Telco and cable operator workers hired in the 1990s – when many providers last did major network expansions – have retired or will soon retire, taking with them the knowledge and skills required to transform the networks to fiber to the home (FTTH) and DOCSIS 4.0.
Bob Murphy, senior vice president of business services at ATX, says the emphasis on crews for the communications industry has hit a “20-year lull.”
“There was not a dedicated focus on training the workforce,” he says. “It shifted to an IT-centric workforce instead of pure outside- or inside-plant technicians or line workers.”
Even though the U.S. telecom industry will create 850,000 jobs by 2025 according to a coalition of industry associations, Mears, a construction and engineering services firm, sees the lack of a skilled workforce as a potential issue. “There’s going to be a huge demand for the specialized construction that will take place,” says Trent Edwards, president of Mears.