Congressional leaders on workforce development and transportation policy introduced bipartisan legislation to bolster the nation's infrastructure workforce by prioritizing strategic long-term planning and investments in career and technical education (CTE) and on-the-job training. The Transportation Workforce Investment Act aims to create a robust workforce pipeline to meet the growing demand for skilled workers to maintain and upgrade the nation's aging infrastructure. Representative Jim Langevin (D-RI), co-chair of the Congressional CTE Caucus, was joined by House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Members Troy Balderson (R-OH), Angie Craig (D-MN), and co-chair of the Building Trades Caucus, David McKinley (R-WV), in introducing the bill.
"Rebuilding our nation's infrastructure will require a workforce equipped with proper training," said Langevin. "Securing funding to rebuild the roads and bridges that Americans rely on every day is just one challenge we face. We must also make sure that we have workers who are adequately prepared to get the job done. We need to take action to close the workforce gap that exists, and we can do that by putting Americans on pathways to valuable skills and good-paying jobs. I am proud that this bipartisan legislation also pushes to get ahead of changes in the transportation sector workforce that may result from the proliferation of new technologies, including autonomous vehicles."
"Ohio's challenges require innovative solutions," said Balderon. "This legislation tackles two challenges by applying a need for skilled workers in the infrastructure field to Ohioans' desire for good education and jobs outside the traditional 4-year university path. I'm proud to champion this legislation with Congressman Langevin to help our students of today train to enter our workforce of tomorrow."
"I came to Congress to work on issues facing everyday Americans, like fixing our nation's crumbling infrastructure," said Craig. "We need to ensure we have the workforce to support these critical projects. That's why I'm excited to partner with Rep. Langevin to make sure we are supporting workforce development and skills training for the transportation jobs of the future."
"One of the many challenges we face with upgrading our aging infrastructure is not having enough skilled workers to complete the work," said McKinley. "This bill will help address this workforce gap by ensuring federal and state resources can be used to develop the skills needed for these good-paying jobs."
According to a Brookings study, an estimated three million additional workers will be needed to meet the nation's infrastructure needs over the next decade in areas like construction, manufacturing, maintenance, operation, design and engineering. To create a robust workforce pipeline, the Transportation Workforce Investment Act will promote collaboration among government, industry and education entities; prioritize opportunities for youth career exploration, apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeships; and support reskilling programs for workers whose jobs may be impacted by emerging technologies within the sector.
The legislation also expands states' authority to use money allocated from the Highway Trust Fund for CTE programs and other workforce development activities, including increasing participation of underrepresented populations in transportation sectors and updating CTE facilities. For long-term planning, the bill adds workforce development as an element within the Secretary of Transportation's five-year research and development strategic plan. It also creates a "Taskforce on the Future of the Transportation Workforce" to study and develop recommendations for the Secretary and for Congress related to building and maintaining a diverse workforce in transportation sectors as new technologies, including the increasing use of automation, become more prevalent.
In May 2019, Congressmen Langevin and McKinley sent a letter - signed by a bipartisan coalition of 49 of their fellow members - to House leadership and leaders on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee urging them to include workforce development investments in future infrastructure legislation. The letter highlighted looming infrastructure workforce challenges that could prevent an infrastructure package from being swiftly and fully implemented. In recent weeks, Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader McConnell have both spoken about advancing infrastructure legislation in the coming months.
The bill is supported by the American Road and Transportation Builders Association and the Association for Career and Technical Education.