Bold Business Logo
Close this search box.

A BEAD Program Challenge – Skilled Workforce Gaps

a dude who is one of the skilled workers for BEAD Program

The BEAD Program will likely be among one of the most impressive infrastructure endeavors the nation has ever known. The $42 billion+ to be invested in high-speed broadband connectivity throughout the country is a gamechanger. Having rural areas with access to broadband will invite new possibilities related to economic development and education. It will also introduce hundreds of thousands of new jobs in the process. But here is where the BEAD Program may hit a bit of a bump in the road. Many states are already experiencing a digital workforce gap in advance of their broadband initiatives. And finding ways to recruit and train skilled workers for the BEAD Program will be essential.

a dude who is skilled workers for BEAD Program
Finding skilled workers for BEAD Program staffing is a problem bold businesses need to solve!

(Read this Bold article and learn all you need to know on the ins and outs of the BEADS Program.)

For years, digital workforce gaps have plagued companies and states alike. Despite rising demand, there has been a lack of interest in pursuing such careers for a variety of reasons. But given the investment provided by the BEAD Program in financial terms, new incentives now exist. These incentives should not only encourage individuals to develop new knowledge and skills for these jobs. But it should also motivate states and stakeholders to train skilled workers for the BEAD Program. Alternatives exists to meet the digital workforce gap in the interim, but the long-term solution requires a more thoughtful effort.

“We’ve got right-of-way issues, permits, permissions, even locating underground facilities for utilities, and having the right staffing to be able to process those permits in localities is so critical.” – Pamela Sherwood, Vice President of Regulatory Compliance, BrightSpeed

Digital Workforce Gap Estimations

Even before the demand for skilled workers for the BEAD Program existed, shortages were present. Some states like Michigan have reported that 89% of existing state jobs require digital skills. However, in reality, less than half the workforce possess such skills. This will become even more evident as broadband initiatives are pursued across the nation. Conservative estimates suggest that 34,000 jobs will be created in the next year for the BEAD Program. But private research firms suggest this figure to be much higher. For example, the Fiber Broadband Association suggests more than 200,000 new positions will emerge over a five-year period. Others suggest this number may rise to 800,000 jobs within the decade.

a dude doing some broadband expansion on a pole
Broadband for everyone! (As long as there are enough workers to get the job done.)

Certainly, the number of qualified applicants for these positions do not currently exist. This could hinder progress of many states’ BEAD Program plans as a result. Part of the problem is many individuals assume broadband technician careers don’t pay well or have limited growth potential. This is not the case, but such perceptions contribute to the digital workforce gap. Others assume rural destinations aren’t very attractive, which is where unserved and underserved broadband areas exist. However, this is rapidly changing given the economic infusions that the BEAD Program is providing. Communicating this will be important in cultivating a larger number of skilled workers for the BEAD Program ahead.

“Digital skills training unleashes the potential of high-speed internet within homes and businesses.” – Craig D’Agostino, Vice President of Government & Regulatory Affairs, Comcast

Solutions to the Problem

fiber optics and the digital workforce gap
The digital workforce gap must be traversed for broadband to be provided to everyone.

In the short term, states will need to find innovative ways to address the digital workforce gap. An important strategy in this regard will involve working with private partners to attract skilled workers for the BEAD Program. Outsourcing such needs to private consultants offers a great way to meet objectives immediately. For example, MercuryZ and similar companies can provide a variety of skilled digital workers to help states meet deadlines and goals. The current digital workforce in the country has been estimated to be about 650,000 individuals only. This highlights the digital workforce gap looming ahead, which is why these types of short-term solutions will be most practical.

Longer-term solutions will also be needed moving ahead as skilled workers for the BEAD Program expand. This means states and companies working with them will need to invest in ongoing training programs. Establishing standards in this regard and incentives can help recruit and cultivate workers that shrink the digital workforce gap. Likewise, broadband trade organizations should be formed to guide such standards and advocate for the profession. Lastly, states should pursue public relations campaigns that highlight the benefits of broadband careers. This includes initiatives that tout the advantages of rural living and opportunities. Through these efforts, the digital workforce gap can be progressively diminished. And the promise of the BEAD Program itself be better realized.


Feeling the BEAD – States Embracing the Federal Broadband Grant Program

Don't miss out!

The Bold Wire delivers our latest global news, exclusive top stories, career
opportunities and more.

Thank you for subscribing!