Infrastructure Plan Could Create 800K Jobs, Skilled Workers Needed

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New analysis from S&P Global estimates that the Senate-approved bipartisan plan to rebuild U.S. infrastructure will create close to 1 million new jobs over the next decade. The report estimates that by 2030, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act would boost employment by over 880,000, adding many middle-class jobs in construction, engineering, transportation and energy.

According to S&P’s analysis, if the infrastructure bill passes, it will create more in economic activity than it would cost – a $1 trillion investment in infrastructure would add $1.4 trillion to the U.S. economy over eight years. The plan is also projected to increase per capita income by 10.5% by 2030, boost private-sector productivity by around 10 basis points per year, and lift average GDP growth.

The measure includes $110 billion for roads, $73 billion for power infrastructure, $66 billion for passenger and freight rail, $39 billion for public transit, $11 billion for transportation safety, and $7.5 billion for electric vehicle infrastructure.

The creation of new jobs crucial to strengthening the nation’s highways, bridges and public transit is good news, but there will also need to be enough labor supply to fill the new positions as projects begin to roll out. Beverly Scott, vice-chair of the President’s National Infrastructure Advisory Council says that right now, we do not have the workforce ready.

A recent U.S. Chamber of Commerce report found that although commercial construction contractors are growing more optimistic about new projects on the horizon, finding skilled labor continues to be a challenge for contractors. 88% of them reported moderate-to-high levels of difficulty finding skilled workers, and more than a third had to turn down work because of labor deficiencies. 

These statistics underscore an ongoing challenge for the skilled trades – not enough young people are entering the sectors, a concern for companies as older workers retire. Although many skilled trade positions have competitive wages and lower educational barriers to entry, only 10% of infrastructure workers are under 25, while 13% of all U.S. workers are in that age group, according to a Brookings Institution analysis.

“The challenge is, how are we going to replace – not just grow, but replace – many of the workers who are retiring or leaving jobs?” said Joseph W. Kane, a fellow at the Brookings Institution. “A lot of people, especially younger people, just aren’t even aware that these jobs exist.”

Some are optimistic that policymakers will be able to scale up workforce development programs to keep up with the demand the infrastructure bill would create. Projects could take several months to get started, economists say, giving the country time to train workers who are not yet qualified.

The Rebuild SoCal Partnership, which represents more than 90,000 union workers throughout Southern California, advocates for expanded access to in-demand career training programs and apprenticeship opportunities to address skilled workforce shortages in the building and construction industries.