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Bridging the Workforce Gap in the Telecom and Fiber Industry

Justine Arscott
October 3, 2023
5 min. read

The below is a recap of the “Industry Leaders Round Table: Workforce Development” at Fiber Connect 2023, with speakers Mark Boxer, OFS, Amelia R. De Jesus, The Wireless Infrastructure Association, Lesley N. Liarikos, Tower Systems Inc., Brian O’Hara, NRECA, Joshua Seidemann, NTCA-The Rural Broadband Association, and Craig Thomas, The Broadband Forum. 

In the ever-evolving landscape of telecommunications and broadband infrastructure development, a vital challenge is the shortage of skilled workers. In a recent panel discussion, industry experts shared their insights on bridging the workforce gap in the telecom and fiber industry and how it impacts the sector’s growth and development.

Understanding the Challenge

The panel discussion commenced with a deep dive into the multifaceted challenges confronting the industry. Foremost among these challenges was the issue of a severe labor shortage, which loomed as a critical obstacle in the path of progress. The discussion echoed with concerns about the urgent need to initiate recruitment and training initiatives aimed at solving these specific challenges, with the broader goal of bridging the digital divide.

Throughout the conversation, the panel had a shared perspective on the significance of overcoming the bottleneck challenge in the deployment of broadband infrastructure. The panelists underscored the crucial role that recruitment and education play in resolving this, but they emphasized that it’s more than just simply filling job vacancies. Rather, it’s a mission to nurture a workforce that can embark on long-term career paths within the industry, thereby contributing to its growth and sustainability.

Overall, the consensus was that addressing the labor shortage isn’t a short-term fix, but a strategic endeavor to establish and nurture sustainable careers that not only meet the industry’s immediate needs but also ensure its resilience in the long run.

Continuous Learning in the dynamic Telecom & Fiber industry

The dynamic nature of the industry was highlighted, emphasizing the continuous need for skilled workers as technology evolves. The panel also touched upon initiatives to raise awareness among young students about careers in broadband and telecommunications, preparing the next generation for the ever-growing demand for skilled professionals.

One of the most significant factors of success? Understanding the importance of involving parents in the career choices of their children and the need for programs that promote awareness of careers in the industry from a young age. Creating interest and curiosity among young minds is a crucial step in securing the industry’s future workforce.

Addressing Demographic Challenges

Demographic challenges were a focal point of the discussion, particularly in rural areas where an aging population can lead to workforce issues. Attracting younger talent and ensuring that careers in the broadband industry are seen as valuable and purposeful are significant concerns.

The shift in education platforms and the importance of adapting training to cater to different types of careers in the industry was also mentioned. This includes a push for greater diversity, particularly involving women in a historically male-dominated field.

Role of Industry Associations in Bridging the Workforce Gap

The conversation then shifted towards the role of industry associations in addressing the workforce challenge. The Fiber Optic Association (FOA) emerged as a key player, providing nationally recognized training and certification for professionals in the field.

The FOA’s training focuses on knowledge, skills, and values, including safety and documentation. The panel emphasized the importance of repetition in training to build muscle memory, particularly when it comes to tasks like splicing fiber.

Collaboration for a Stronger Workforce

The panelists discussed the need for collaboration between industry organizations, state agencies, and regulatory bodies to develop effective workforce strategies and apprenticeship programs. A coordinated effort is essential to meet the growing demand for skilled workers.

Conclusion: Bridging the Workforce Gap

In conclusion, the panel emphasized the industry’s need for a well-trained and diverse workforce to address the challenges of deploying broadband infrastructure across the United States. They also highlighted the importance of education, awareness, and continuous training to keep up with the evolving telecommunications landscape.

Bridging the workforce gap is not just about addressing the shortage of labor but also about building a resilient and sustainable industry that can support the growing demands of a digital world. Industry associations like the FOA and collaborative efforts are paving the way for a brighter future in telecommunications and fiber optics.

At Praxedo, we’re providing telecommunications companies with a field service management software that helps enable successful digital transformation projects. Those projects and our solution aim to alleviate the challenges posed by the growing workforce gap within the industry. Our focus lies in pioneering a people-centric approach, one that harnesses technology to empower, rather than replace, individuals. We believe in user-friendly interfaces, reliable applications and quick time-to-market fueling adoption. Through this approach, we aim to support telecom companies who are simultaneously committing to investment in training, skill development, and the implementation of enduring workforce development strategies geared towards long-term sustainability.

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Praxedo has been a trusted provider of field service management (FSM) solutions for the world’s leading telecommunications providers since 2005. Our success is attributed to our unwavering focus on delivering the best FSM tools in the market. Unlike other providers, we don’t aim to supply all enterprise applications. Instead, we prioritize our expertise in FSM and offer a cloud-based solution that streamlines deployment from start to finish.

Today, more than 1,300 companies including large enterprises and SMBs, and 40,000 users across the globe rely on Praxedo daily to optimize their field service operations. Our solution enables them to increase productivity, optimize resources, and facilitate seamless data exchanges between field personnel such as technicians and engineers, and their dispatchers.

For more information about how our solution can help your organization, request a demo


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