A coalition of US operator groups urged President Joe Biden and Congress to prioritise skills training for telecommunications jobs, arguing many more workers are needed to meet the demands of 5G network rollouts.

In a letter, US Telecom, the Competitive Carriers Association (CCA), the National Association of Tower Erectors (NATE) and others said next-generation deployments were expected to create 850,000 new direct jobs by 2025, but warned “our American workforce is not currently ready to fill them”.

They pressed for upcoming broadband legislation to include “support for employers to expand registered apprenticeships” and cover certification costs for workers. The groups also sought assistance for educational programmes covering “broadband and network engineering, network deployment and field activities, and cybersecurity”.

“The stakes are high. Without a properly trained 5G workforce, China can use centralised authority to quickly focus labour resources to beat us to the finish line.”

Staffing has been an ongoing challenge for operators in the country: the Federal Communications Commission and NATE flagged expected shortages as a key issue in the run up to 5G deployments.