Late Friday, the FCC announced that Kristi Westbrock, CEO and general manager of NRTC member Consolidated Telecommunications Co. (CTC), in Minnesota, will be part of the new Telecommunications Interagency Working Group (TIWG). She will represent rural telecommunications on the group created by the recently passed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) to identify the present and future needs of the telecommunications workforce.
Westbrock has been with CTC for 14 years and has been CEO and GM since June 2018. She has about 25 years of telecommunications experience and in recent years has been active in helping form telco/electric partnerships that extend broadband connectivity to rural Minnesota.
“Not only is the opportunity to work with so many critical federal agencies in this space an amazing opportunity but obviously tackling the development of the telecommunications workforce of the future will be mission critical project for years to come,” said Shirley Bloomfield, CEO of NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association in a member email. “Can’t think of anyone better positioned to share this industry’s perspective as well as her own.”
“A big part of ensuring modern communications reaches everyone, everywhere is also making sure that we’re properly investing in the workforce to support that mission,” said FCC Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel in a press release.
Rosenworcel appointed Westbrock and four other members of the 12-member TIWG. The Secretaries of Education and Labor as well as the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information appointed the other members. The membership is a mixture of government officials (FCC, Department of Education, Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration) and non-governmental groups, including an industry association, a union, a tribal government and a college president.
IIJA directs the group to develop recommendations on how the federal government could address telecommunications workforce needs with an emphasis on rural workers, according to an FCC Public Notice. The group will also recommend ways to improve interagency coordination; improve recruitment of telecommunications workers, ways to improve safety conditions, especially for tower workers, and identify trends in wages and benefits.