Communications Workers of America Awarded Federal Grants for Workforce Development and Apprenticeship Programs as Union Gears Up for National Infrastructure Buildout
Department of Labor grant awards include $2 million for CWA Local 7603 to train Idaho-based broadband technicians and $5 million to train IT workers in partnership with the Urban Institute
CWA’s apprenticeship programs will raise industry labor standards and connect underrepresented populations to high-quality employment opportunities amid infrastructure boom
NATIONWIDE – Amid the nationwide infrastructure buildout funded by the Biden Administration’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), the Communications Workers of America (CWA) is a primary awardee or partner on approximately $7 million in grants from the Department of Labor for worker-driven apprenticeship programs that will be critical to raising industry labor standards and connecting underrepresented populations to high-quality employment opportunities created by President Biden’s multi-billion dollar infrastructure investments. By ensuring a well-trained, robust workforce to roll out IIJA, CWA is also helping to ensure high-speed, long-lasting broadband networks for Americans nationwide.
“CWA is committed to using our expertise to build apprenticeship programs that lead to family-supporting careers in telecommunications. We know what a difference access to good jobs makes, particularly for communities that have been historically underrepresented in the field. At the same time, as the U.S. begins to roll out the IIJA and one of the largest broadband buildouts in history, these programs will ensure that this job is done right, providing even more opportunities for lower-income and underserved communities who will finally have access to high-speed broadband services.” said CWA President Claude Cummings Jr. “We are very proud of our work at CWA expanding the talent pipeline for new workers in the broadband and IT sectors and grateful to the DOL for recognizing the value that CWA members bring as training partners.”
CWA Local 7603 was awarded a $2 million grant to establish a registered apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship program for broadband technicians in Idaho aimed at preparing the skilled workforce needed to improve and upgrade broadband infrastructure within the designated counties of Idaho. The training activities will include pre-apprenticeship training to instill the general skills prerequisite for the broadband infrastructure workforce and apprenticeship training focusing on fiber optic cabling. The program will seek to support unemployed, underemployed, and incumbent workers, with a particular focus on women, veterans, active military, justice-impacted individuals, and residents of the two tribal homelands located within the region.
CWA’s grant comes as Idaho is set to invest $583 million from the IIJA’s Broadband Equity, Access and Deployment (BEAD) program to expand broadband infrastructure across the state. Through the apprenticeship program, CWA will raise labor standards in a fragmented labor market in which broadband construction and maintenance are often subcontracted to low-road contractors that put worker safety and service quality at risk.
“As Idaho prepares for a statewide broadband buildout, CWA Local 7603 is committed to train more Idaho residents to become highly skilled broadband technicians who know how to build safe, reliable broadband that will stand the test of time,” said CWA Local 7603 Local President Jeremiah Clever. “With the DOL’s apprenticeship grant for $2 million, we have an unmatched opportunity to partner with employers, the state, and educational institutions to lead the way on this historic fiber buildout, all while raising industry standards and providing good-paying, stable jobs to underrepresented Idahoans.”
Additionally, through a $5 million grant awarded by the DOL to the Urban Institute, CWA will serve as a partner in creating pre-apprenticeship job pipelines in information technology (IT) aimed at diversifying the industry and bringing stable, good-paying jobs to underrepresented groups. With this funding, Urban and CWA will expand the talent pipeline for in-demand, middle- to high-skilled IT occupations, including across the renewable energy sector, by providing training to people of color, women, rural residents, and individuals with at most a high school diploma.
In its partnership with the Urban Institute, CWA will create a workers’ rights training module and deliver it to all program participants, serve as a subject matter expert on worker rights, labor, history, and organizing, and host virtual events for project partners and the public about these topics within the IT and renewable energy sectors.
“CLEAN IT seeks to connect individuals underrepresented in IT to good IT jobs in the clean energy sector,” said Deborah Kobes, Senior Fellow, Urban Institute. “We’re excited to partner with CWA on this project, because they are a critical voice in ensuring that this emerging sector provides quality, power, and equitable economic advancement to tech workers.”
About CWA: The Communications Workers of America represents working people in telecommunications, customer service, media, airlines, health care, public service and education, manufacturing, tech, and other fields.