IE 11 Not Supported

For optimal browsing, we recommend Chrome, Firefox or Safari browsers.

Ohio Launches 5G and Broadband Workforce Development Program

The state is launching a new training program for fiber-optic technicians at the Tri-County Career Center in Nelsonville, aiming to create a workforce capable of installing new broadband and 5G infrastructure.

Fiber Optic
Despite the presence of 270 service providers in Ohio, 618,000 of its residents still lack access to wired Internet connections of 25 Mbps or faster, according to data from the research website BroadbandNow. With the state now planning to build out its broadband and 5G infrastructure, officials say they still need to train technicians to lay the groundwork for future projects.

Noting workforce demands, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted announced the creation of a new fiber-optic technician training program, located at the Tri-County Career Center in Nelsonville, to train students in fiber-optic installation and splicing to build new networks in the years ahead, according to a news release from the state. The program was launched last week as one of the first major steps in a broader state initiative to build Ohio's broadband workforce, dubbed the Strengthening Ohio’s Broadband and 5G Workforce strategy.

Husted, who leads the Governor's Office of Workforce Transformation, told Government Technology the state aims to spread awareness about broadband career opportunities among students in K-12 schools, and to establish additional training programs for which Nelsonville could serve as a model.

“It sounds great to say we’re going to build all of this, but you can’t build it without actually having a workforce,” Husted said. “We can’t say we’re going to spend billions on this in the country and install a bunch of new infrastructure if you don’t build the workforce to actually get the job done.”

According to Husted, the program is open to high school students and adults to obtain industry certification for work in the field. He noted the course can count toward high school career and technical credits, though additional details remained pending as of this week.

“It’s designed for anybody who would like to have a career as a broadband technician,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity for high school students, but it’s structured in a way to invite more people than just a high school student.”

The training program received $30,000 from the state to help cover personnel and equipment costs, with additional support from the private sector to hire instructional staff to start training students in October, Husted said. The state gained much of its insight into the fiber-optic job market from companies such as Ohio-based broadband provider Horizon, which consulted the state about projected workforce needs.

“As a rapidly growing company in this industry, we understand the staffing challenges. That is why we believe so strongly in our partnership with the state and TCCC to help grow the talent pool by training and developing candidates," Brian Riley, Horizon’s senior vice president of operations, said in a public statement last week.

Husted said representatives of Horizon told the state they’re willing to hire as many trainees as they can help train.

“There’s $500 million for broadband infrastructure we expect over the next year or two, and that’s 1,250 construction jobs that will need to be filled,” he said.

“The deployment of 5G is expected to create 107,000 jobs statewide," he added. “We have to have a lot of classes of 25 people to get to the number we’re going to need. That’s why this is such an important thing and we’re trying to spread it as quickly as we can."

Husted said he hopes the training program, one of four in Ohio endorsed by the Fiber Optic Association, will guide students to careers that offer first-year salaries of $60,000 or more.

“That’s a really good job in Appalachia, and that’s the place we’re going to be putting in a lot of this infrastructure,” he said. “These are the kinds of skills that are going to have value in the marketplace for a long time.

"We’re talking about jobs of the future, which are jobs their parents didn’t have or didn’t exist when their parents or grandparents were in the workforce,” he added. “It’s a whole new process of education and enlightenment about what the opportunities are and making it easy for those students to take advantage of those opportunities.”
Brandon Paykamian is a staff writer for Government Technology. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism from East Tennessee State University and years of experience as a multimedia reporter, mainly focusing on public education and higher ed.