The New Administration’s Infrastructure Projects – Get Your Crews Ready!

The New Administration’s Infrastructure Projects – Get Your Crews Ready!

Ever since the recession of 2007-08 hit, the number of skilled workers in the construction industry has dwindled dramatically due to the nationwide slump of infrastructure projects.  But with a Trump presidency just days away, it looks like this problem is about to do an about face. The question is, will your construction company be able to hire the skilled crews it needs to compete in the wake of the boon that’s about to happen?

As reported in Business Insider, “Trump’s infrastructure-spending plans have a worker problem” (December 19, 2016), training America’s workforce for specific job skills has been a mission of the US Department of Labor (DOL) for the last several years. In fact, programs at the federal and local levels have been in place since 2013 addressing the “worker shortage” issue. The US Department of Labor and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) have also responded to the construction ‘skills gap’ and are expanding their efforts help train workers for road and bridge building.

Back in 2013, the DOL initiated a new approach by coordinating with the Department of Education (DOE) and every state with something called the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.  This national program is a publicly-funded workforce development system comprised of Federal, State, regional, and local agencies and organizations.  The mission of these groups is to provide a range of employment, education, training, services and supports to help all job-seekers secure good jobs while providing businesses with the skilled workers needed to compete in the global economy. Each state submits a jobs training strategic plan to the DOL/DOE, which in turn grants federal funds to the states based on those plans. The result? Fewer government run programs and more industry and/or non-profit grant initiatives run by the states.  Interestingly, some of the most successful job training programs are run by private industry and/or non-profit organizations.

A good example of how a state government and non-profits work well together is Maryland’s Employment Advancement Right Now (EARN) program.  This program encourages private industries to help to develop the workforce so that Maryland employers have the talent they need to compete and grow in the future. Grants from EARN fund over 40 non-profits to train candidates for the skillsets they need to be a viable part of their chosen industry, construction being one of those industries who will need manpower, and lots of it, as construction jobs are expected to grow steadily through 2020.

Another program called Maryland New Directions, Inc. has shown success by stirring over 300 motivated, unemployed inner-city residents per year to the beginnings of life, family and community sustaining careers.

A Baltimore city resident who qualified for the Baltimore Gas & Electric underground electric maintenance training program, was introduced into the program through Maryland New Directions, after having passed their “soft skills” training program.  This included computer literacy, resume writing, and job interview practice.  The worker pictured below is now “work ready.”

Then there’s PLH Group, a nationally recognized utility construction company headquartered in Dallas, Texas that is exemplary in providing training and apprentice programs, and works closely with the Texas Department of Labor and the Texas Workforce Commission. Since 2012, PLH Group has graduated 24 apprentices, each of whom took four years of documented on-the-job training in specific tasks to earn their Journeyman certification to work in transmission, distribution and substation careers. When workers “earn as they learn,” this helps them gain entry into a high-wage occupation while avoiding large student debts. Currently, the program is available to employees of Air2, Power Line Services and Power Line Energy Services, and the hope is to expand it into other PLH Group companies in the future.  PLH group was recognized for their outstanding commitment to the labor force, earning an invitation to the White House in October 2016. The company’s commitment to a highly trained construction team through the DOL Apprenticeship program is promoted on their website:

PLH Group, a nationally recognized Utility Transmission Distribution Construction Company readies for an uptick in construction hiring by preparing workers (seen here at apprenticeship training day at Northeast Lineman School) for careers in Electrical Transmission and Distribution and Electrical Substation Services.

So now, the question is, will you be “worker ready” when the bids start to pour in?

A great first step is to investigate how you can partner with your state’s DOL skilled labor training programs, apprenticeship programs, or with a local jobs training non-profit organization.  See the resources below to get started.

Resource links: