The Bureau of Labor Statistics Launches a Telecommunications Technicians Web Page

Oct. 18, 2023
As the Biden-Harris administration creates opportunities for the economy, many progressive changes are taking place.

Just this year the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) made a new category separating communications workers from electrical line workers. In a recent Fiber Optics Association (FOA) newsletter it announced the BLS has created this Telecommunications Technicians web page. This website gives job descriptions for fiber optic and wireless techs, a reference for grants applications, and job statistics that can inform people on how many more fiber techs are needed in the U.S.

Among the statistics noted are that the total employment of telecom line installers will only grow by approximately 10% in the next decade, and per one estimate only 20% of newcomers entering the trades of the number retiring. FOA states that if that is accurate then the workforce will be shrinking and not growing. It’s also not an issue of simply training techs to install FTTH as part of the BEAD program, but also recruiting enough people so the workforce grows instead of shrinks.

According to the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) they estimate that 13,000 new jobs in broadband will be created yearly. They also deduced that a good chunk of these jobs will not require a college degree. Some states are also developing a network of community and technical colleges, and even incorporating telecom and fiber courses within high schools. FOA states, “The realistic need for training the fiber optic workforce for the next decade is probably 30,000 fiber techs; replacing the ~20% retiring and adding ~10% for market growth. That's not a problem. FOA approved training organizations in the US are already training that number and more.”

With the aid of this education network new techs can be recruited and trained in the geographic areas where they are needed, especially within rural areas, tribal lands, and urban areas with high unemployment rates, which are the regions where the BEAD program is focused.

FOA notes that recruiting requires an overhaul of what high school students have been told by their counselors, that they need a college degree to succeed in life. They also say, “If we want to have enough fiber optic techs or electricians, plumbers, auto mechanics, or any other trade, we have to change the attitude of these counselors. And students need to realize that there is tech work other than working on software for games or computer graphics.” However, this is not the only type of training that needs to occur. Techs who install communications hardware must be cross-trained, and even though they might not become installers the work they do is reliant on fiber, and it is imperative to know how to utilize it and repair it when need be.

The U.S. Department of Labor recently announced an award of almost $94 million in grants to give worker-centered sector training programs in 25 states and in D.C. to help meet workforce needs from the Biden-Harris “Investing in America” agenda. FOA is a partner in a multitude of these training programs.

As part of President Biden’s economic plan to grow the U.S. from the bottom up and middle out, this helps create pathways to high-quality and high-demand jobs, which includes union jobs. These training programs and work-based learning initiatives will include career pathways in advanced manufacturing, information technology and professional, scientific, and technical service occupations. It will also aid jobs in areas made through the Biden-Harris administrations infrastructure investments including renewable energy, transportation and broadband infrastructure.

FOA has fiber optics teaching modules for introducing students at any grade level, including some demonstrations to gain students’ interests. If someone is a veteran, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs recognizes FOA certification which can help veterans looking for training to get financial aid. U.S. veterans should reach out to their VA advisors for more information.

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