Cultivating Skills to Connect Communities in Louisiana

Sonia Perez – President, AT&T Louisiana
November 30, 2022
Broadband Access and Affordability, Community Impact

Cultivating Skills to Connect Communities in Louisiana

As President of AT&T Louisiana, I’ve spent many years working to create meaningful connections for residents and businesses throughout the state. Over the years, the more than 3,300 AT&T employees who live and work here in Louisiana have repeatedly shown that cultivating a skilled and passionate workforce leads to positive impacts throughout the community.

But establishing a pipeline of passion and expertise in a field that’s constantly evolving requires not only robust investment but thoughtful planning at the individual, community, and regional levels.

As high-speed internet becomes more critical to everyday life, part of our responsibility to local customers is identifying opportunities to train and develop our neighbors with the skills they need to ensure their communities are connected.

Why? Because having a skilled, local fiber-optic workforce in Louisiana will be integral to helping communities expand their broadband networks and bridge the digital divide.

We’re seeing this play out nationally – with the White House recently calling for investments to develop equitable workforces in infrastructure sectors through its Talent Pipeline Challenge. We heard that call and are answering by partnering with organizations like Communications Workers of America (CWA) and Corning Incorporated to better develop a fiber-optic workforce for the future.

Read more about how we’re investing in those who connect our communities.

Now, we’re making a similar commitment in Louisiana with our grant of $40,000 to the Louisiana Community and Technical College System (LCTCS) Foundation to create training opportunities for graduating students. Along with helping adults and students reach their highest potential, LCTCS provides workforce training that can connect participants with high-demand, high-wage jobs.

These LCTCS programs give students the opportunity to build Industry-based Credentials and develop important skills through programs like:

  • Fiber-Optics Technician and Specialist,
  • Heavy Equipment Operator,
  • Installation Technician, and
  • Lineman

On top of that, LCTCS colleges are working with local and regional employers to make sure that the courses lead to local hiring. This collaborative process is already paying off. Since beginning our work with LCTCS, we’ve been able to hire students who have developed their fiber-optic training skills in the classroom to important positions in engineering, architecture, and tech.

Helping go from applicant to employee

In addition to the LCTCS students that have already joined us, we’ve also invited Bossier Parish Community College (BPCC) and other LCTCS Colleges to share with students how to register with the AT&T Talent Network – our platform that allows job seekers to stay up to date with the latest opportunities and track progress during the application process.

  • We have teamed up with LCTCS to arrange job and career fairs across Louisiana college campuses.
  • Our employee volunteers are helping to prepare students for the hiring processes by hosting mock interviews.

And to keep our finger on the pulse to gauge anticipated workforce needs, we’ve joined other Internet Service Providers (ISPs), telecom contractors, local government decisionmakers, and other key stakeholders in Louisiana at a series of statewide roundtable discussions to provide a designated space for feedback and leadership as we continue the important work of connecting communities across the state.

As the Louisiana workforce welcomes more and more highly skilled workers from LCTCS, we’re also looking beyond Louisiana to other states to invest in their workforces.

We’re developing a nationwide curriculum in conjunction with Corning Incorporated to create a new training program focused on equipping thousands of technicians and network specialists across the industry with the skills crucial to design, engineer, install, and manage a growing fiber broadband network across the U.S.

A few weeks ago, we kicked-off the first Fiber-Optic Training Program in Charlotte, NC at Corning’s facilities. Together, with our “train the trainers” program, new trainers will be able to replicate skills and expertise industry-wide – with a goal of training 50,000 employees over the next five years.

  • The curriculum developed with Corning provides students with both the knowledge and experience to create new trainees for years to come.
  • Led by experts across the industry, the program begins to address the talent gap of high-tech workers – with a focus on entry-level workers – to create a pipeline of trainees from DE&I organizations and veteran groups.

Through training programs and industry-led curriculum, our hope is that more Louisianians can enter the fiber-optic workforce with the confidence and skills they need to be a part of the teams that are connecting neighbors and communities across America.

Charging ahead

We have our sights set on creating a more connected future, and we can’t do it alone. Without question, the critical components of this effort are the people on the front lines expanding access to high-speed internet and the technology we use to get the job done. Beyond the job site, programs dedicated to developing a skilled fiber-optic workforce have impacts that start in the classroom and extend throughout the community.

We believe that we are stronger together, and that includes facilitating opportunities for Louisiana’s workers along the way. We’re prioritizing an industry-led, local workforce – meaning we’re not only creating new job opportunities but ensuring that the infrastructure can and will be maintained by a skilled workforce well into the future.

We’re excited to continue our work to foster stronger, more involved and more sustainable communities across Louisiana through the power of connection.