House transportation Democrats prioritize inclusive workforce programs

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House Democrats have proposed expanding diversity recruiting efforts to the entire transportation workforce as the Biden administration continues to pursue outreach programs.

Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) insisted that the enactment of the $1 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) presented an ideal opportunity for job creation in various sectors.

“While the development of transportation projects is underway, we need to ensure that there is a skilled workforce available to meet construction hiring needs,” DeFazio told his colleagues on the 27th. April at a hearing of the Highways and Transit Sub-Committee. “The construction industry has long offered well-paying careers for people looking for an alternative to a traditional four-year college degree.”

Specifically, DeFazio pointed to provisions in the law that dedicated funding to road reconstruction projects, as well as transit and rail projects. Provisions regarding the recruitment and retention of local employees were included in the law in anticipation of states and municipalities proceeding with highway and transit construction projects.

“Through the IIJA, state and local transportation agencies are now able to require that a percentage of labor hired to build federally funded transportation projects come from the local community” , DeFazio added. “This authority, commonly referred to as ‘local hire,’ was previously only permitted through the US Department of Transportation’s pilot programs.”

Holmes Norton

Highways and Transit Subcommittee Chair Eleanor Holmes Norton (DD.C.) echoed the president’s sentiment in proposing that Congress further improve programs that facilitate job opportunities and employment Security.

“A landmark investment of this size will require a diverse and skilled construction workforce to ensure these projects are completed on time and built to last. The construction trades provide fulfilling, well-paying careers, supporting thousands of workers and their families,” said Norton. “Yet too often barriers, such as transportation costs, child care or lack of access to training and other forms of support, hinder the ability of women, minorities and people disadvantaged to access jobs in the construction sector.

Kari Karst, president of BX Civil and Construction, representing the Associated General Contractors of America, told the House subcommittee that the industry has identified challenges as it aims to tackle infrastructure projects in national scale.

“The construction industry continues to face labor shortages due to expected retirements of tradespeople, growth in other sectors and difficulties recruiting and training new workers. in the industry,” Karst said. “Meanwhile, demand and construction activity continue to grow. It will be difficult to find enough skilled workers to rebuild the infrastructure of our country.

The trucking industry has also identified labor issues. The American Trucking Associations, for example, has determined that the industry is short by approximately 80,000 commercial drivers.

The Biden administration has sought to address labor shortages in the transportation sector. A recent collaboration between the Departments of Labor and Transportation and freight stakeholders has been established to expand registered apprenticeship programs to recruit and retain commercial drivers. Underrepresented groups, such as women and minorities, were sought out for apprenticeships.

“In the past 90 days, 100 major employers launched new registered apprenticeship programs,” Biden said April 4. highly trained and highly motivated to get behind the wheel, including a lot of veterans.

Meanwhile, Republicans on the panel have proposed that the Biden administration prioritize guidelines intended to streamline the permitting process for expensive projects. They were aimed at the provisions approved in the IIJA.

“For too long, worthwhile infrastructure projects have been unnecessarily delayed by our permit system. Time is money, and in a world of soaring inflation, further delay in implementing this law limits the total number of jobs created by infrastructure money,” said Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), a ranking member of the Highways and Transit Subcommittee. “As the federal government begins to allocate funds for infrastructure projects, we need to ensure that our workforce is available and ready from the start so that the money can go further.

Michael A. Bynum