On Monday, April 10th, members of the MAX Leadership Network heard from Maya Goodwin, Senior Manager of Policy and Research at the Markle Foundation about her team’s latest report on realizing the workforce potential associated with the recent federal investments into infrastructure. As Goodwin and co-authors point out, rare levels of funding, through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 and Inflation Reductions Act of 2022, toward transportation and clean energy infrastructure projects over the next decade point to exciting opportunities to take multifaceted action that will lead to good quality jobs and greater economic security and mobility in our region.
Some highlights from Goodwin’s presentation:
- Many jobs are expected in transportation and clean energy over the next 5 to 10 years. About a trillion dollars will be infused in these two sectors.
- Will enough people be trained to complete projects at such a large scale? Will these investments support good quality jobs and inclusive economic opportunity? Both depend on whether bold, intentional actions are taken.
- Majority of infrastructure workers currently do not hold a bachelor’s degree. The jobs can pay well and there are already a lot of replacement needs.
- Significant and persistent racial and gender disparities exist. Women represent only18.5% of infrastructure workers and in some of the largest to grow occupations, just 3% to 7% of the workforce. Black and Hispanic workers are concentrated in lowest-paying infrastructure occupations.
- There is a significant opportunity to formalize partnerships and kick-start coordination between state infrastructure, workforce development, additional state agencies, and other critical stakeholders.
- State infrastructure agencies are often interested in incorporating workforce inclusion and job quality standards into the terms of their spending, though doing so will involve an intentional shift and raise some complex questions.
- Demand for apprenticeship in clean energy construction and manufacturing has the potential to go way up, offering meaningful paths to family-wage sustaining careers for many.
Goodwin advises for local workforce leaders to engage with state infrastructure, workforce and education agencies to coordinate and raise Atlanta workforce priorities. She made the following suggestions:
- Learn about major infrastructure investments in your area and the extent to which existing workforce programs prepare people for those occupations.
- Learn about how state infrastructure agencies are supporting workforce goals with new federal funding. Advocate for using flexible infrastructure dollars for workforce investments: Example: Is your state planning to use its DOT 504e funds to invest in child care, and other wraparound supports?
- Catalyze partnerships between infrastructure agencies, workforce, labor, education and community partners to build programs and also to have an ecosystem of stakeholders advocating for more intentional alignment between demand and supply investments.
- Consider the following questions: What are the biggest barriers that pre-apprenticeship programs in your area say their graduates face? How can bring partners together advocate to the state to address those concerns?
Also joining the MAX Leadership Network were Jean Leier and Stella Vargas, representing the Georgia Express Link Partners co-led by Cintra, Macquarie Capital and John Laing, and their lead contractor Ferrovial Construction, a developer of large-scale and complex transportation infrastructure projects in the United States. Leier and Vargas discussed the significant need for skilled trades workers (especially welders, carpenters, and crane operators) and how their companies have a vested interest in becoming more engaged with workforce development partners.
ABOUT THE MAX LEADERSHIP NETWORK
The MAX Leadership Network convenes regularly to strengthen our collective capacity as workforce developers to meet the needs that employers have for a ready workforce. The Leadership Network plays a critical role in helping MAX achieve its goals as determined by the MAX Board of Directors.
- Improve alignment within the workforce ecosystem to better meet the needs of providers, employers. and jobseekers.
- Increase awareness and visibility of workforce development system assets and opportunities.
- Provide opportunities to increase quality, capacity, and effectiveness of Atlanta’s workforce system.
- Serve as a sustainable, neutral, third party convener for workforce developers, employers and organizations engaged in workforce development.