Technician shortage exacerbated following millions in broadband funding to the Two Virginias

Published: Jun. 7, 2022 at 7:13 PM EDT
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BLUEFIELD, W.Va. (WVVA) - Millions of dollars were announced Tuesday by U.S. Senators Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) set for their respective states, in an effort to expand broadband internet infrastructure.

More than $130 million is set for the mountain state, and nearly $220 million for the Commonwealth -- but one economic development leader in Mercer County said Tuesday that a roadblock awaits that funding.

“What we’ve found, that there’s a shortage of technicians to install and splice fiber, said Jim Spencer, Director of Bluefield, W.Va.’s Economic Development Authority. “So even with the money that’s being spent, the hundreds of millions of dollars being spent in the united states to install fiber, there’s a shortage of technicians to do that work.”

Spencer said his office now plans to work toward providing training to local high school graduates to attempt to up the number of local certified fiber technicians.

“We went after what’s called a ‘good jobs challenge’ on behalf of the eleven southern coalfield counties in region one and region four,” said Spencer. “If that’s funded, it will create a fiber technician training program in the southern part of the state.”

Spencer also said basic training could be finished in around a week -- and certified technicians can start off making 18 to 23 dollars an hour.

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