Connecting state and local government leaders
The $1.2 trillion federal infrastructure package can deliver a needed jolt to the labor market, but states and localities need to focus on building the long-term labor pipeline, according to a new report.
Policymakers at the local, state and federal level remain focused on creating more good-paying jobs and supporting workers following the Covid-19 recession. So now is the time to develop and test new approaches to strengthening the long-term infrastructure talent pipeline and not “just scramble to fill short-term jobs,” according to a report by Brookings.
On Monday, President Biden signed a roughly $1.2 trillion infrastructure package into law. The legislation was a top priority for state and local leaders and sets the stage for years of boosted spending on roads, transit, water systems, broadband and other public works.
About $284 billion will go to transportation programs, with about $110 billion of that amount slated for roads and bridges. There's $39 billion for transit and $66 billion for rail. The law also includes $65 billion for expanding and improving broadband networks and $55 billion for waterworks.
Here are five ways regional government leaders can prepare to recruit and develop future infrastructure workers, according to Brookings:
Focusing on Career Paths
Filling infrastructure jobs goes beyond construction so leaders must focus on the career pathways involved in infrastructure, operation and maintenance, the report contends.
Construction laborers, highway maintenance workers and other productions offer multiple employment opportunities. However, those jobs can obscure the 17.2 million jobs involved in managing ports, delivering electricity, fixing broadband and more, according to other research by Brookings.
Emphasizing High-gross Jobs
Infrastructure hiring needs are not just about filling newly created positions but also about filling existing vacant ones, according to Brookings.
About 1.5 million industry workers are expected to leave their jobs on average each year over the next decade. An aging workforce, retirement and the inability to hold on to existing workers partially explain the high separations rate, the report says.
Strengthening Planning and Training
Infrastructure jobs share similar skills and training needs, yet employers struggle to build or pull from a larger pool of labor, according to Brookings. About 53% of infrastructure workers have a high school diploma or less and typically develop more skills on the job, including familiarity with tools and knowledge in STEM fields, the report says.
To strengthen coordination, regional leaders need to bridge planning and communication gaps across employers, including water utilities, transportation departments, energy providers, telecommunications companies and others..
Ensuring Equity and Inclusion
Ensuring prospective workers beginning their careers remains a challenge, especially for women and people of color who are underrepresented across these jobs, according to Brookings research.
The lack of gender and racial diversity results from several factors: a lack of visibility and community engagement; limited supportive services, including child care and transportation access; and a lack of employer flexibility and resources to help nontraditional individuals navigate unwelcoming workplaces.
Regional leaders should view their infrastructure workforce needs in light of the needs of their entire community in line with strategies emerging nationally around a more equitable post-Covid economy, the organization says.
Experimenting With New Projects
Experimenting and rethinking the objectives of new projects, including economic opportunity and workforce development have the potential to involve more people, which can lead to better regional outcomes, according to Brookings.
For example, there has been a push among regional leaders to allow more local hiring for infrastructure projects that receive federal funding, according to USA Today.
For more information from the Brookings report click here.
Andre Claudio is the assistant editor for Route Fifty.