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Strengthening Ohio’s Broadband and 5G Workforce

News Type College News

Ohio Lt. Governor Jon Husted, who serves as director of the Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation (OWT), announced that The Ohio State University will receive $3 million to design curriculum for Ohio’s Broadband and 5G Sector Partnership in an effort to develop a skilled broadband workforce. Once developed, the curriculum will be available for implementation by all higher education institutions in Ohio. This announcement is part of a larger effort by OWT and BroadbandOhio to grow the workforce needed to expand broadband access and 5G in Ohio.

The Ohio Education Research Center (OERC), a unit of the John Glenn College of Public Affairs, is a partner in this initiative. The OERC will apply its expertise in workforce and education analytics to better understand the trends influencing broadband workforce supply and demand in Ohio.

With faster data speeds, increased device density and ultralow latency, 5G is expected to transform how people and machines communicate and how industries do business as well as enable “smart” and connected communities. According to research from Boston Consulting Group, 5G deployment will contribute $1.4 trillion to $1.7 trillion to U.S. GDP and create 3.8 million to 4.6 million jobs in the next decade.

The “Strengthening Ohio’s Broadband & 5G Workforce” Strategy, released in September 2021, calls for a Broadband and 5G Sector Partnership that will lead the implementation of the goals outlined in the strategy. As the host institution, Ohio State will identify a nonprofit telecommunications industry partner to focus engagement with industry stakeholders and identify workforce needs. The Partnership will work to design and distribute curriculum and training programs across the state and promote career awareness to supply the industry with a skilled workforce.

The OERC will analyze the workforce supply produced by Ohio’s public higher education system, including career and technical education centers, two-year colleges and four-year universities. The analysis will include the current and projected number of graduates by degree level (credential through advanced) in programs aligning with the broadband workforce-related occupations. It will identify relevant institutions of higher education and programs that are producing graduates across the state. The OERC will also analyze recent patterns of unemployment/re-employment to uncover potential sources of broadband and 5G workforce supply within the incumbent workforce. 

“The Ohio State University is the right institution to host Ohio’s Broadband and 5G Sector Partnership because of their involvement in this work and strong support from the business and education communities,” said Husted. “This Sector Partnership will give the telecommunications industry a chance to work alongside training providers to develop curriculum that will be available for any Ohio institution. This will better prepare job seekers to enter the workforce with the skills and credentials that will help both individuals and businesses succeed.”

The initiative’s principal investigator is Professor Anish Arora, chair of the Department of Computer Science and Engineering. Co-PIs are Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor Eylem Ekici and Computer Science and Engineering Professor of Practice Rajiv Ramnath.

“Our experience of the past two years has underscored that fast, reliable connectivity is not a privilege, but a necessity, and is absolutely critical to success in the modern age,” President Kristina M. Johnson said. “Ensuring that every Ohioan has online access, and that the promise of next-generation connectivity — 5G — is realized, requires a well-trained workforce, whose members are expert in the latest cutting-edge technologies.

"Ohio State is often at the vanguard of innovation and research, and I am proud to work with the Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation, BroadbandOhio, the Ohio Department of Higher Education and other partners statewide to develop an interdisciplinary curriculum that will prepare Buckeyes for careers in this growing industry,” Johnson says. “Not only will this important effort bolster the economy by creating new and good-paying jobs, but it will help bring connectivity to underserved communities and support other fast-growing sectors like artificial intelligence, machine learning and edge computing.”

The Partnership will implement the statewide strategy to produce the right talent at the right capacity and at the right time. In addition to creating workforce development programs and innovation programs, awareness programs will be created for middle and high schools. The formation of a central convening entity will help reduce duplicative efforts among regions and allow regional partnerships to be forged.

Given its extensive experience creating and delivering end-to-end educational programs, Ohio State will serve as the lead institution and structure and house the partnership. The industry partner will distill industry needs and, jointly with Ohio State, oversee planning and implementation of the educational and workforce development programs. An advisory board and regional centers of excellence also will be established.

The collaborative project will employ a comprehensive and systematic process consisting of career pathways analysis; geography-based labor supply and demand analysis; skillshed analysis to map the occupational skills of displaced workers to meet emerging occupations; and occupation prioritization to align and develop programs.

The announcement represents another project related to broadband expansion that builds upon efforts by Gov. Mike DeWine and Husted to expand and enhance high-speed internet access for businesses and families throughout Ohio.

The “Strengthening Ohio’s Broadband & 5G Workforce” Strategy can be found on the BroadbandOhio website.