Amid California’s multi-billion dollar broadband infrastructure buildout, the Communications Workers of America (CWA) District 9, in partnership with Chabot-Las Positas Community College District (CLPCCD), in August announced that it has been awarded a $5.8 million grant to expand its apprenticeship training programs for fiber technicians at the existing CWA training center in San Jose, and three additional sites across California.
CLPCCD serves students in the San Francisco East Bay Area, particularly southern Alameda County, through its two colleges: Chabot College in Hayward and Las Positas College in Livermore. CLPCCD is governed by a seven-member board of trustees which is responsible for all policy decisions. Board members are elected from trustee areas by the registered voters of nine communities: Castro Valley, Dublin, Hayward, Livermore, Pleasanton, San Leandro, San Lorenzo, Sunol, and Union City, California.
Through the U.S. Department of Labor Apprenticeship Building America grant, CWA and CLPCCD contend in a statement that new apprenticeship training program for fiber technicians "will raise labor standards in a fragmented labor market, in which broadband construction and maintenance is often subcontracted to low-road contractors that put worker safety and service quality at risk."
CWA’s grant comes as California is set to allocate more than $5 billion for a state-owned middle-mile fiber network and subsidies to providers for last-mile broadband connections to homes, businesses, and community institutions, as outlined in the state's Senate Bill 156, signed into law in July 2021.
California will also receive hundreds of millions of dollars more under the Infrastructure Act Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) program for last-mile deployment. This large-scale public investment will require a statewide workforce of well-trained fiber technicians, which CWA aims to expand by offering high quality training and financial support for apprentices.
“Our apprenticeship program has provided a pathway for Californians to access good-paying union jobs,” said CWA District 9 Vice President Frank Arce. “With this funding, we have an opportunity to significantly scale apprenticeship in the broadband sector and ensure a focus on recruiting underrepresented and underserved communities to good jobs building communications networks serving California.”
As detailed by a CWA press release:
"With labor-management apprenticeship programs proving more effective at graduating workers and connecting them to high-quality jobs than employer-only programs, CWA will seek employer partners who see value in raising standards and investing in California communities.
CWA will use this funding to build three new labor-management apprenticeship programs, located in the northern, central, and southern parts of the state, and expand the existing apprenticeship program in the Bay Area.
These programs will increase awareness and adoption of the apprenticeship model as a viable pathway for training skilled workers in the fiber optics field while expanding the number of diverse applicants entering the programs by exceeding a threshold of at least 20 percent young people, people of color, women, and veterans in each of the programs over the four-year period."
"CLPCCD's Apprenticeship Program has served as the Local Education Agency for the Communications Workers of America District 9's apprenticeship program since 2010, supporting the college-credit earning classroom learning portion and creating a career pathway to an associate degree for their apprentices,” noted Julia Dozier, District executive director of Economic Development and Contract Education with CLPCCD.
In order to address worker retention across the industry, CWA District 9 said it plans to build an educational ladder so that apprentices will have the opportunity to continue their education through an associate’s degree.
Dozier added, “CWA District 9 apprentices will obtain skills for a lifelong career while working in a paid job from Day 1. We are excited to expand our partnership to serve CWA apprentices throughout the State of California through this program that will bring broadband equity to all."
CWA said the apprenticeship program will also "create direct incentives for employers to invest in a well-trained workforce by covering critical training and equipment costs for apprentices." This includes paying all instructional costs not covered by California’s Related and Supplemental Instruction funds during the course of the grant, and providing all apprentices with required tools and personal protective equipment.
The grant will also offer an employer boot camp program as a recruiting tool, where prospective employers can experience the apprenticeship program. CWA is also pursuing funding to reimburse employers for apprentice wages and benefits while in training," added the press release.
As California gears up to connect unserved and underserved communities to high-speed broadband, CWA emphasized that it will continue to "partner with public agencies, educational institutions, community organizations, and other stakeholders to support a locally-based, diverse workforce ready to build the fiber future."