Obama Jobs Program and National Broadband Plan

President Obama giving Jobs Plan address to CongressThe Obama jobs program is expected to begin unveiling the details his job creation program in his speech before Congress this Thursday and CIO’s should be preparing their response plans. The Obama administration and the President have been leaking some of the ideas in the plan since early August which will be focused on rebuilding America’s infrastructure and more support for job training programs.

Although President Obama’s Speech to the AFL-CIO focused yesterday mostly on traditional infrastructure jobs related to bridges, roads and other hard infrastructure initiatives the importance of rural broadband infrastructure has been emphasized recently in the jobs program strategy along with additional funding for career and technical education programs at community and technical colleges. Accordingly, CIO’s serving two-year colleges and institutions especially in more rural areas should be preparing plans to support grant applications for dislocated workers or training programs targeting manufacturing, high tech and green jobs as well as another round of broadband funding.

Stimulus Broadband Grants

I would never suggest CIO’s should create broadband projects just to chase the federal dollars since it would be a big distraction from institutional priorities sending the wrong message to your constituents. Not to mention it would break my golden rule of not letting the business drive IT. But if a broadband project supported by federal funds is consistent with your current IT strategic plan and institutional priorities then it makes sense to get ready for the Obama jobs program speech.

It is also important that CIO’s consider whether or not their institution has a regional interest in seeing broadband access expanded that is supported by the institution’s mission and priorities. In this case, I would encourage CIO’s to use this as an opportunity to take a leadership role regionally on organizing a consortium to develop a plan in preparation of seeking federal funding.

I realize this is not without some controversy having lived through Wisconsin’s debate on rural broadband and the role of the state’s colleges and universities in providing broadband services. All the more reason to have a plan in place or to reaffirm your institution’s position on broadband projects before the phone calls start coming in.

My best recommendation would be for CIO’s to poll their IT governance committees and education councils to reaffirm the current stance on broadband or to agree on any new opportunities to be evaluated. It might also be worthwhile to have a quick refresh with your team on the issues so everyone is on the same page. Be sure to include the previous push behind rural broadband initiatives, the digital divide, and the National Broadband Plan.

Obama Jobs Program Grants

CIO’s should be reaching out to their peers in education leadership and the grants office to see what projects might be under consideration for funding from the Obama jobs program and how they can help.

Just as with creating a broadband plan, CIO’s need to be careful to not dilute their attention with ideas that are not among established proprieties which is why I am not suggesting CIO’s pitch career training projects. Instead I am suggesting you proactively seek to assist those who are working to develop proposals so that they can be supported under your existing IT strategies.

Perhaps a mobile computer lab so that training can be delivered more efficiently at employer’s sites is in order. Perhaps expanded capacity in remote access systems or the acceleration of application virtualization or desktop virtualization projects would make it easier to support alternative delivery of job training programs while expanding access.

Whatever the need or opportunity, it is important for CIO’s to see the Obama jobs program as an opportunity to partner with their peers within their institutions and regionally and lead on the educational programming and services to the community.

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