Building a Strong Broadband Workforce in Ohio

AT&T Blog Team
May 25, 2023
Broadband Access and Affordability

Building a Strong Broadband Workforce in Ohio

Our purpose at AT&T is to connect people to greater possibility. An announcement made this week by the State of Ohio carries the same spirit of innovation and commitment to connection. Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted unveiled a new telecommunications tower technician training initiative that will begin at the end of this month. The program is funded by the Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation as part of Ohio’s broadband and 5G workforce strategy and was created in partnership with NATE: The Communications Infrastructure Contractors Association, which provided the curriculum.

The telecommunications tower technician program aims to strengthen Ohio’s broadband and 5G workforce by training students to become certified tower technicians – a critical broadband and 5G industry occupation. Ohio announced three of these programs at the end of 2021 at North Central State College, Hocking College, and Vanguard-Sentinel Career & Technology Centers. All three programs are up and running.

But this program won’t just bring more Ohioans into a highly skilled occupation helping to build and maintain today’s mobile broadband networks. This program is creating a connection between the increasing demand for 5G infrastructure talent and a still untapped pool of potential workers for whom this training, this field, and these jobs can bring a cherished fresh start.

The Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation is partnering with the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation & Correction and is embarking on a new pilot program in collaboration with the 2-year community-based North Central State College – a public college that enrolls some 4,700 students annually in Mansfield, Ohio.

At the end of this month, eight individuals from the Mansfield and Richland Correctional Institutions will begin to receive tower technician training from NC State followed by a work-release program with an employee partner. The graduates of the program will then have the chance to interview with employer partners with the ultimate goal of being placed in tower technician roles in Ohio upon release.

“Ohio is aggressively looking to expand our broadband infrastructure. We have free job training programs that any Ohioan can take advantage of, yet we still don’t have an adequate workforce to build it,” said Lt. Governor Husted. “I commend the industry for their willingness to train individuals who are leaving incarceration so that they can join the workforce and lead lives of hope and purpose while building the infrastructure that will expand broadband access to more Ohioans.”

AT&T Ohio President Molly Kocour Boyle joined Governor DeWine and Lieutenant Governor Husted to announce the new program and the employment opportunity that will be available to its graduates as they embark on life as restored citizens. The industry-recognized training that the graduates will receive prior to their release will enable them to leave incarceration job-ready and able to chart a new path in life.

“The work to expand and enhance wired and wireless networks, taking fast broadband connections all across Ohio, means our industry must have an even deeper pool of skilled workers,” said Kocour Boyle. “AT&T supports upskilling, training and second-chance hiring programs, including this one. Our agreements with vendors and suppliers give them the discretion. They can hire a job candidate who has had a conviction. Restored citizens can, through this program, become a member of the skilled workforce that is ready to build, maintain and repair the broadband networks that Ohioans are utilizing more and more with each passing day.”

In 2021, AT&T joined the Business Roundtable Second Chance Business Coalition to improve access to employment and advancement for people with criminal records. According to Business Roundtable, research shows employees with a criminal record are, in fact, retained at a higher rate than other employees. Additionally, studies show that the majority of workers are willing to embrace second-chance hiring by their employer.

The State of Ohio launched a “Strengthening Ohio’s Broadband & 5G Workforce” strategy in 2021. Since then, Ohio has announced 11 new programs at career centers, colleges and universities across the state, designed to prepare participants for a variety of jobs in the telecommunications industry – including the three telecommunications tower technician programs.

By working together – between governments, the private sector, higher education and others – we can build the broadband workforce that we need to bring connectivity to more Ohioans and meet the connectivity demands of tomorrow.