Investing in Those Who Connect Our Communities

AT&T Blog Team
November 2, 2022
Broadband Access and Affordability

Investing in Those Who Connect Our Communities

We’re coming up on a year since Congress and the Biden Administration made the historic $65 billion commitment to expand connectivity across the country as a part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA). This was a huge step in expanding internet access, and we’re excited to be part of the next steps to invest, build and evolve those connections.

But, it takes a highly skilled and growing team to actually build and maintain that infrastructure.

  • Our AT&T Fiber technicians and specialists are already working with state and local governments to use federal funds from the American Rescue Plan (ARP) to expand broadband access, including in Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana and Texas.

As more projects like these receive funding, we’ll need an even deeper pool of skilled workers to ensure that we’re able to capitalize on this once-in-a-generation opportunity to connect more communities to the internet.

This demand for skilled workers calls for an “all-hands-on-deck” effort, and this summer, the White House launched a Talent Pipeline Challenge to encourage investments aimed at attracting and developing an infrastructure workforce. Initiatives like these are exactly the type of response needed to combat worker shortages – as it takes teamwork to ready the workforce for the future.

Today, we returned to the White House to celebrate and share more about how we’re responding to the Administration’s challenge. It was a welcome opportunity to reflect on our efforts in the past few months and the momentum that has been created to ready our workforce to better serve communities.

Readying today’s workforce for tomorrow’s demands:

Even before the White House announced their summer challenge, we’ve made a point of investing in our workforce. We’ve spent the last year building on our deep ties within the industry to set up programs that will enlarge the talent pool and help support the goal of maximizing the impact of federal broadband dollars.

One of these strong relationships is with Corning Incorporated, the nation’s largest fiber manufacturer. In April, we announced that we were coming together to create a Fiber Optic Training Program within Corning facilities in North Carolina.

  • Since that announcement, Corning and AT&T have worked together with local community organizations like the Urban League of the Central Carolinas and Goodwill Industries of Southern Piedmont to recruit trainees from diverse backgrounds.

The training program is now in full force, with trainees learning directly from fiber technician experts about network fundamentals and engaging in hands-on experience. The training is preparing recruits to fill much needed roles at carriers, construction providers and broadband companies.

Our goal for this program is to have trained 50,000 American workers within five years who are ready to build, maintain, repair and upgrade networks – as demand for connectivity continues to grow.

  • And to keep this training pipeline strong, this collaboration also includes a “train the trainers” program” so these sessions can be replicated across the country.

We’re also teaming up with the Communications Workers of America (CWA) to explore an apprenticeship program to develop our workforce – leaning on our deep relationship with unions as one of America’s largest employers of union-represented employees.

  • Through this apprenticeship program, we intend to help new and existing employees develop the skills needed to take on technician jobs through on-the-job training that allows workers to gain skills without having to leave their existing positions.

To attract and train even more talent, we’re working with educational institutions in local communities –  including trade schools and other higher-ed schools. For example, in North Carolina we’ve teamed up with Cape Fear Community College and a consortium of other community colleges in Louisiana to model a fiber optics training program into their curriculum.

In addition to collaborations across sectors, we recognize that part of building a broadband workforce is retaining the workers we already have – and central to that goal is giving employees a path to success. We’re committed to creating economic opportunity and upward mobility for all of our employees. Every year, thousands of frontline employees are promoted into management and other roles at AT&T to further advance their careers at any level.

We were recently recognized for our commitment to our employees – in the 2022 American Opportunity Index.

The bottom line:

To bring connectivity to communities across America, we need a skilled workforce that is ready to build, maintain and repair broadband networks. Our collaborations with Corning, CWA and educational institutions don’t just benefit our company – they benefit the entire telecommunications industry by increasing the pool of skilled workers.

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