National Association of Tower Erectors (NATE) Chairman Jimmy Miller, President at MillerCo, Inc. in Gulfport, Mississippi, provided expert witness testimony at this morning’s U.S. Senate Commerce Committee hearing in Washington, D.C. regarding “The 5G Workforce and Obstacles to Broadband Deployment”.
The hearing was convened by U.S. Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS) who serves as chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.
Although U.S. Senators had a late night attending the impeachment hearing, they welcomed the opportunity to discuss the pressing issues of implementation of the nation’s wireless communications infrastructure.
During his remarks, Miller provided perspective on the industry’s challenge to attract, recruit and retain a workforce capable of possessing the diverse skill set necessary to produce the expansion of universal broadband, public safety and ubiquitous 5G coverage across the country.
As part of his testimony, Miller also discussed other barriers that are threats to the industry’s efforts to deploy next generation technologies and close the digital divide.
Miller also provided solutions to the challenges, including highlighting NATE’s workforce development and training initiatives and advocating for legislation that has been introduced in Congress, including H.R. 1848 – The Communications Jobs Training Act that has been introduced in the U.S. House.
Miller urged Sen. Wicker and his colleagues to introduce a companion version of the bill in the U.S. Senate. The legislation would establish a competitive grant program at the FCC and appropriate $20 million per year for three fiscal years to develop classroom and field-based curriculum and certificate programs at community colleges, technical institutes and military organizations.
To read NATE”s official witness testimony in its entirety, visit HERE.
“It was an honor to serve as a voice today on behalf of NATE’s membership, a majority of which are the small business contractor firms like mine who are on the front lines of deployment and enabling connectivity on a daily basis,” said Miller. “I would like to thank Senator Wicker and his colleagues on the Senate Commerce Committee for providing this platform today to help shine a spotlight on our industry’s challenges and opportunities,” Miller added.
FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr, Lisa Youngers, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Fiber Broadband Association, Shirley Bloomfield, CEO of NTCA-The Rural Broadband Association and Harold Feld, Senior Vice President of Public Knowledge also provided witness testimony at the hearing.
Regarding workforce training and the skills gap, Commissioner Carr said that “TIRAP already supports 2,085 apprenticeships with 30 different employers. Apprenticeship programs like this hold great promise because they allow those with obligations or families to support a chance to earn while they learn. DOL’s continued focus on support for 5G jobs can help address the workforce challenge.”
He also said the federal government should provide the same support for technical workforce training as it does for non-technical education.
To view the video replay of today’s hearing, visit HERE. It begins at the 15:30 minute mark.