USDOT, White House Promote Infrastructure Workforce

The sectors Biden outlined included the high-speed internet industry, major construction operations and fields related to electric vehicles and batteries as well as the electric grid. (stevecoleimages/Getty Images)

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The Biden administration recently launched initiatives designed to connect individuals with careers associated with infrastructure.

The Department of Transportation and the White House outlined guidance to assist stakeholders seeking to enhance workforce programs. The administration’s efforts, announced this month, are linked to the implementation of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

Specifically, DOT officials are providing assistance to agencies pursuing federal grants for infrastructure projects. For instance, DOT is asking grant applicants how a certain infrastructure plan would be “inclusive of populations that are underrepresented in the infrastructure workforce.” The department explained its aim is to promote quality employment opportunities with options for unionizing, as well as enhancing training and educational outreach programs for underrepresented groups.

According to DOT, the guidance is “meant to encourage greater partnership between transportation and workforce agencies at the state and local levels.” The department’s initiative is part of the White House’s efforts to promote workforce training and equity in freight and passenger transportation fields, among other sectors.

At the White House this month, President Joe Biden explained such outreach initiatives are “designed to ensure that workers across the country, especially those historically underrepresented in infrastructure jobs, could take advantage of the job growth in three sectors that are booming because of what we’re going to do because of the infrastructure law.”

The sectors Biden outlined included the high-speed internet industry, major construction operations and fields related to electric vehicles and batteries as well as the electric grid. The president also noted the IIJA, along with new laws that promote production of semiconductors and address climate change, are helping with job creation around the country.

The White House titled its nationwide workforce strategy the infrastructure talent pipeline challenge. “Private, public and nonprofit sector commitments complement the administration’s investments in workforce development and help ensure a diverse set of workers have a fair shot at the good jobs created,” per background the White House provided.

Exemplifying the administration’s aims is the Kiewit Corp., which according to the White House has committed efforts to recruit individuals traditionally underrepresented in infrastructure sectors. The firm has focused on scholarship and apprenticeship programs. “We recognize the opportunity and need to expand our outreach and training programs, from the Kiewit Scholars program that provides scholarships and funding support for universities throughout the country including the Thurgood Marshall College Fund, to our local partnerships with unions, and technical and training organizations,” according to a statement from the company issued Nov. 3.

Additionally, the administration released the “Advancing Equitable Workforce Development for Infrastructure Jobs,” guidance meant to help stakeholders access funds to recruit and retain employees. The White House indicated: “The guide is intended for cross-sector stakeholders, including those who are directly responsible for deploying bipartisan infrastructure law funding and those who are investing in and implementing workforce development strategies and programs.”

According to the report, “The bipartisan infrastructure law expands the Department of Transportation’s on-the-job training program, which helps develop the capacity of the current and future highway construction industry workforce by providing the development and diversity of skilled labor.”

Workforce programs have been a priority for the administration. Earlier this year, the departments of Labor and Transportation partnered on efforts to recruit employers interested in developing Registered Apprenticeships to provide paid, on-the-job training. The initiative was part of the administration’s trucking workforce plan.

Last year, the administration launched its trucking-centric plan as a way for amplifying recruitment and retention efforts throughout the industry. American Trucking Associations, which partnered with the Department of Labor on an apprenticeship program, recently determined the industry is short about 78,000 drivers.

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