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Building the Construction Talent Pipeline

The Infrastructure and Jobs Act is bringing a windfall of funding to U.S. sustainable construction – but are we prepared for its windfall in employment opportunities?

When the federal government approved the historic Infrastructure and Jobs Act (IIJA) in November 2021, it put into motion what will amount to a building spree larger than what was generated during the New Deal Era nearly 100 years ago. The $550 billion of new federal investments will cover everything from bridges and roads to broadband, water and energy systems. Earlier this year, the American Society of Civil Engineers’ (ASCE) latest grade on our infrastructure system was a C-, so the investments couldn’t come at a more pivotal time.

With the bill’s overall goal to increase the nation’s approach to sustainability, the impacts of the IIJA for alternative energy and infrastructure are vast, and as Princeton’s Net-Zero America report recently identified, backlog for wind and solar power touches nearly every state in the U.S.

We have the money – but do we have the employees?

IIJA’s proposed infrastructure spending is expected to generate an average of 1.5 million jobs annually over the next 10 years, according to Moody’s Analytics. The White House said the overwhelming majority of funds will be subject to Davis-Bacon requirements, which ensure contractors pay workers on construction projects a fair, prevailing wage so that local wages, labor markets and workers won’t be undercut. However, as we pointed out last month, open construction jobs are at record levels; if there isn’t enough labor to keep up with demand, efforts to strengthen our infrastructure could be stalled.

The additional $550 billion in IIJA funding is worth around 2.5% of GDP. As a proportion of U.S. construction spending, it is equivalent to a 7% boost each year for the next five years.

A Brookings Institute panel recently looked at the impacts of the IIJA on staffing and employment, recognizing the generational opportunity we have to accelerate momentum around diversifying careers in construction. As past Brookings research has shown, more than three-fourths of construction jobs are involved in long-term operations – from engineers, to technicians and finance, IT and HR. In other words, they pointed out, you don’t have to wear a hard hat to pursue a career in climate-changing construction.

So, what can you be doing now to prepare for the windfall of jobs that could come from IIJA implementation? We have a few suggestions:

  • Tap into groups traditionally underrepresented in the industry, including minorities and women.

  • Strengthen your apprenticeship programs.

  • Develop academic partnerships with regional colleges and universities – or even consider creating STEM programs as early as middle school and high school.

  • Streamline your recruiting and hiring processes.

If you need help with your hiring leading up to an influx of project work from the IIJA, contact us today. And for more information on the IIJA and a guide book for accessing its funds, visit the White House’s guidebook.

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