By: Lucy Moore, Special Policy Advisor, NTIA
The Internet for All initiative is more than just a connection program – it’s a jobs program. To connect everyone to affordable and reliable high-speed Internet service, we’re going to need thousands of new workers, from trenchers, technicians, and equipment operators, to electricians, engineers, and network architects. These will be good paying jobs – and they should be accessible to everyone, including women and people of color.
In recognition of Women in Construction Week and Women’s History Month, we’re highlighting strategies and examples that focus on ensuring women have access to careers in the telecommunications and construction trades industries.
Cultivate a Supportive Working Environment: Cultivating an inclusive environment that does not tolerate harassment and discrimination promotes retention of employees from underrepresented and historically disadvantaged groups. Clearly stating and promoting inclusive workplace policies such as anti-harassment policies, offering equitable training opportunities, and providing employee benefits such as childcare and pregnancy and parental support can help create a more supportive working environment.
Partner with Pre-Apprenticeship Programs for Underrepresented Groups: Pre-apprenticeship programs for women and other underrepresented groups offer workers industry-recognized credentials that will bolster candidate experience and can create a more accessible pipeline into the telecommunications industry. Those receiving funding from NTIA’s Broadband, Equity, Access, and Deployment program can require or encourage these partnerships and activities to support a diverse and representative workforce.
Offer Targeted Mentorship: Mentorship programs have shown to be an important factor in recruitment, advancement, and retention of women in the trades. Those receiving funding from BEAD may develop mentorship programs and encourage their use by subgrantees in order to support diverse and inclusive workplaces.
Provide Wrap-Around or Support Services: Encouraging wrap-around services such as on-site childcare or stipends for childcare, learning materials, and transportation to training programs create a stronger labor pipeline by helping workers get the certifications and relevant experience they need to be competitive in a telecommunications labor market and overcome challenges to and barriers to employment in a telecommunications occupation.
Nonprofit and Industry Groups Partner to Offer Women-Only Apprenticeships: Due to the historic lack of women represented and supported in trade professions, the Chicago Women in Trades, Nontraditional Employment for Women, and Oregon Tradeswomen Inc. created a network of allied organizations. This industry group focuses on the recruitment and development of tradeswomen, along with supporting several cohorts of skilled tradeswomen in women-only apprenticeships and jobs within the trades community.
Women in Telecom Program Offers Mentorship Program to Empower Women in the Industry: NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association, a consortium of nearly 850 independent, family-owned and community-based telecommunications companies, runs a Women in Telecom Program to support women in the industry. As part of the program, NTCA runs a Women in Telecom leadership video series and a women mentorship program that connects women in industry to share knowledge and experience with one another.
Moore Community House Offers Funding for Childcare as part of its Women in Construction (WiC) Program: Based in Biloxi, Mississippi, Moore Community House helps create economic security for women by offering affordable childcare and job training for work that pays a living wage. Moore Community House’s WiC Program is a pre-apprenticeship job training program designed to prepare women for careers in apprenticeship and nontraditional career pathways. As part of the program, Moore Community House offers childcare assistance for eligible participants.
Building upon efforts like these will have lasting positive economic, social, and health benefits for years to come. Within our generational moment to connect everyone to reliable high-speed Internet service there’s an opportunity for women to fully participate in good paying and career building telecommunication jobs.