A major topic of discussion during the Construction Industry Roundtable at PCCA's 2020 Convention was the DOL grant that was announced the week before theconvention. The grant is part of the agency's grant program, Apprenticeship: Closing the Skills Gap, which is designed to support large-scale expansions of apprenticeship. PCCA partnered with the Wireless Infrastructure Association (WIA) on the grant, which will provide the necessary funding to design curricula and deliver training to develop qualified applicants for placement in middle- to high-skilled jobs nationwide. The nearly $6 million grant is supplemented by more than $9 million in matching support from industry, including cash and in-kind contributions from WIA, PCCA, Ditch Witch, FS3, and participating employers, for a total commitment to apprenticeship of $15 million in a public-private partnership.
Five institutions of higher education have been developing utility construction programs as part of PCCA's "Who Will Do the Work?" program, and they are already committed as technical partner schools with PCCA and WIA: State Technical College of Missouri, Terra State Community College (Ohio), Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College, Monroe County Community College (Mich.), and Somerset Community College (Ky.).
"This grant will greatly accelerate the good work that PCCA's Education Committee and Education & Research Foundation have undertaken to tackle the broadband industry’s critical workforce shortage," PCCA President & CEO Tim Wagner said. "PCCA and its foundation are now poised to help train the workforce necessary to realize the promise of the nation’s 5G network. All of PCCA thanks Sellenriek Construction for having the vision to involve State Technical College of Missouri in their workforce solution and Mark Bridgers for conceiving the idea of a standardized curriculum and for moving the ball forward with the PCCA-affiliated schools."
The award has garnered significant attention on Capitol Hill and throughout the industry. A February 19 article in Politico said, "The Labor Department is offering $6 million in grant funding to telecommunications apprenticeships amid policymaker concerns the U.S. is short tens of thousands of workers to build out 5G wireless networks."