By Sydney Stalnecker
Ohio Lt. Gov. Jon Husted visited Youngstown State University’s Excellence Training Center on Monday, April 18, to discuss the 5G Readiness Program with students from the college and local technical schools who participated in the course.
Husted, director of the Governor’s Office of Workforce Transformation, came back to receive feedback on the 5G Readiness Program he launched Oct. 18 at YSU and Ashland University.
“[The ETC] is first class, and your commitment is first class to trying to help bring together the strategy where education and business collaborate most closely for the benefit of all of the students and the community,” Husted said.
According to Broadband Ohio’s website, the “Strengthening Ohio’s Broadband & 5G Workforce” Strategy is a result of several “public and private investments being made in broadband and 5G at the state and federal level.” Tens of thousands of jobs are expected to be created as a result of these investments.
The 5G Readiness Program is OWT’s and Broadband Ohio’s response to this expected increase in jobs. The program was created to train students so Ohio has a knowledgeable workforce at the ready when these jobs open up.
However, according to Husted, at the beginning of his and Gov. Mike DeWine’s administration in 2019, 1 million Ohioans didn’t have access to high-speed internet.
“The pandemic really shined a light on the fact that you can’t participate in the modern economy, education or healthcare system without access to high-speed internet,” Husted said.
DeWine and Husted have been providing grants to areas without broadband.
“In the last award of the grant program that Gov. DeWine and I did to help build out Broadband to basically 25% of the state that doesn’t have it — that’s going to create 1,250 jobs in broadband and 5G that we don’t have anybody to fill right now,” Husted said.
The course was made possible by the presence of the ETC, the university’s willingness to work with local schools and the 5G Sector Partnership Grant provided to the university by the OWT.
YSU President Jim Tressel said those in local communities “have been working extremely hard together” to make this program what it is today. Teachers and students from Mahoning County CTC, Columbiana County CTC, Trumbull County CTC, Eastern Gateway Community College and YSU faculty, staff and students involved with the STEM program and ETC have come together.
“Many years ago, the lieutenant governor told us there were going to be opportunities here in the state of Ohio, and what was going to be key was to raise up the talent to take advantage of those opportunities,” Tressel said.
Husted recognized some residents of Ohio don’t have access to the current technologies.
“There’s two things happening: First of all, there’s a whole new level of technology being developed … with 5G technologies, but there’s also a group of people out there in Ohio who don’t even have access to the current technologies — the high-speed internet,” Husted said.
The federal government has distributed $250 million in grants to areas without high-speed internet, according to Inside Towers. Despite these grants, some individuals may choose not to invest in 5G due to financial or other personal reasons.
The students who participated in Husted’s course said they would like more hands-on opportunities, but liked their experience overall.