Let’s Start Building Some Earning Power

Photo Credit: Josh Seidemann

By Josh Seidemann, VP of Policy, NTCA-The Rural Broadband Association

If you would have tossed the term “cybersecurity” at me 20 years ago, I probably would have thought about a showdown between Storm Troopers and the Jedi. And if ten years before that, someone would have said “web developer,” I might have thought about Eric Carle’s The Very Busy Spider.  Times and technology change our frames of reference, and likewise modify the job market.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported earlier this month a projected ten-year, 32% increase for information security analysts jobs through 2028. These positions typically require a bachelor’s degree and in 2018 enjoyed median wages of $98,350 per year, almost 14% more than all computer occupations and 154% more than all measured occupations. Run a quick internet search and you’ll find hundreds, if not thousands, of openings that offer flexible “work from home” opportunities.

Rural spaces offer fertile ground for training new workers.

Of course, changes in technology can have foreboding tones, as well: McKinsey submits that 45% of current jobs may be affected by automation that is currently in the marketplace. We have discussed these prospects previously in this blog, focusing on the disruption that robots will bring to the workplace. But, and as we have noted before, the Industrial Revolution, which introduced widespread automation to manufacturing, did not strand workers over time. To be sure, it displaced workers and forced people to learn new skills, but U.S. unemployment rates since 1950 have been related more to economic cycles than technological developments. Pinboys and ice cutters are no longer viable careers, but then again, before automatic pinsetters and refrigeration (or even a decade ago), who had a social media manager or analytical data miner on staff? 

All of this leads to the proposition that broadband-connected rural spaces can compete effectively in the labor market. Remote.co cites 17 unique statistics about telework, including reduced costs for workers and employers, increased productivity and decreases in sick days and time off. And, rural spaces offer fertile ground for training new workers. In Jefferson, Iowa, earlier this month, Pillar Technology rehabilitated an historic 6,000 square-foot building to serve as a tech training center. Pillar is partnering with local schools to begin tech training early. The program continues through college and offers free training and apprenticeships – all with the goal of growing and retaining technical talent at home.

But broadband does not simply support tech jobs, it supports all manner of industry. And that’s where opportunity emerges.

Consider these examples from the 2019 Smart Rural Communities Showcase awards:  RTC of Montgomery, Indiana, partnered with its county economic development association to deploy seven miles of fiber that clinched the deal to attract a Japanese auto manufacturer to a regional industrial park. Chariton Valley of Macon, Missouri, supports an IT services and solutions provider that employs 400 people in Missouri and Georgia. Fiber connectivity provided by Kalona Cooperative Technology Company of Kalona, Iowa, was a determining factor in the decision of a medical supply design and manufacturing firm to maintain a local facility that supports 100 jobs.

So, bring on the information security analysts, the social media managers, the factories and the entrepreneurs. Because when someone says, “drone manager” five years now, you won’t go back to Star Wars.