The Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry (L&I) today announced the availability of $800,000 in funding to support broadband expansion across the Commonwealth through registered apprenticeship programs that can train a workforce with the skills needed to build high-speed internet infrastructure. From day one, a top priority for Governor Josh Shapiro has been extending and expanding access to broadband across the Commonwealth and making connections more reliable and affordable.
L&I is soliciting applications for grants from registered apprenticeship programs with plans to reach underrepresented populations — including women, minorities, individuals with disabilities, and veterans – for training in broadband-related occupations. According to the Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority’s (PBDA) master plan, at least 2.6 million Pennsylvanians living in 1.3 million households do not have access to internet or the skills to use technology.
“In the 21st Century, individuals, families and businesses without access to reliable internet service are at a serious economic disadvantage. It’s time we close the digital divide for citizens across Pennsylvania,” L&I Acting Secretary Nancy Walker said. “These funds will build a workforce that can tear down barriers to economic opportunity, especially in the rural areas of Pennsylvania. Investment in these workers is an investment in Pennsylvania’s future.”
In his 2023-2024 budget, Governor Shapiro is proposing $23.8 million for workforce training and apprenticeship programs, including ones aimed directly at improving Pennsylvania’s broadband network.
The Biden Administration’s $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) was signed into law in November 2021. L&I designed this grant opportunity in anticipation of increased employment opportunities for infrastructure projects related to broadband expansion. Under the IIJA, Pennsylvania is expected to receive at least $100 million in funding to help provide broadband coverage across the state.
Last week, Sen. Bob Casey announced an allocation of $200 million to Pennsylvania from the American Rescue Plan for high-speed internet expansion to 44,000 homes and businesses.
Applications must be submitted by 5 p.m. on Monday, June 12, 2023. More information on the Supporting Broadband Infrastructure through Registered Apprenticeships and Pre-Apprenticeships Grant Program and related materials are available on L&I’s website.