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Study finds Maine needs at least 3,200 new workers to sustain existing broadband investments

In this photo made Tuesday, April 6, 2010, network engineer Will Duquette, of Old Orchard Beach, Maine, adjusts power wires in a fuse panel at Great Works Internet in Biddeford, Maine.
Pat Wellenbach
/
AP file
In this photo made Tuesday, April 6, 2010, network engineer Will Duquette, of Old Orchard Beach, Maine, adjusts power wires in a fuse panel at Great Works Internet in Biddeford, Maine.

There's a new hurdle in the effort to expand broadband in Maine: a workforce shortage. A recent study suggests some 3,240 additional workers are needed for existing broadband investments across the state.

The workforce gap of software developers, fiber splicers, engineers and others could grow to more than 4,500 workers, depending on how federal and state dollars are invested in Maine during the next few years. That's according to new analysis of Department of Labor data from the Maine Connectivity Authority and Camoine Associates, an outside consultant.

Broadband providers say they're often bringing workers in from other states for days at a time to get a job done. And though a few private sector programs and one community college in Maine offer training for prospective broadband workers, the talent pipeline is relatively sparse.

Kwame Yeboah, workforce development manager for the Maine Connectivity Authority, said the agency is working with the immigrant population, retirees, formerly incarcerated people and those in recovery, among others, to attract them to the broadband industry.

"The idea is to go to them, try to work with the agencies that are working with them and find creative ways of engaging them in a field like this, because the pay is pretty good, benefits are pretty good, and demand is going to soar in the next couple of years," he said. "I mean it's starting right now."

About a dozen students are enrolled in a pilot training program through Washington County Community College. A similar program at Central Maine Community College is in the works. And Yeboah said he plans to create a mobile learning lab, which could travel around Maine to teach prospective trainees about careers in the industry.