To be successful, we must invest in skills training at the same time we invest in physical infrastructure. Infrastructure is inherently people-centered; built for the people, by the people. Washington cannot focus recovery efforts around one without equal consideration for the other. Therefore, any investments made to physical infrastructure must include investments in training – so people have the skills they need to access jobs and so business has a pipeline of skilled workers.

We can’t pay to build a new bridge and just keep our fingers crossed that hundreds of skilled workers will show up to build it. Skilled welders, construction crews, and IT professionals don’t just magically appear. They must be trained at our community colleges and in our workforce system – and that doesn’t happen by accident. It happens because we intentionally invest in people’s skills training, education, and career pathways. Not incidentally, these investments must serve people of color, women, and other communities that have historically been excluded from good careers in infrastructure. Industries hardest hit by the pandemic (like hospitality and retail) employ large percentages of these populations. Any worker forced to change careers, especially to one in infrastructure, will need significant retraining to do so.

Infrastructure investments lead to job creation. Modernizing, repairing, and maintaining our infrastructure today could create millions of jobs over the next few years. ASCE estimates we would need a $2.6 trillion investment in our infrastructure just to bring our grade from C- to B-. Recent analysis by the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce found that a $1 trillion investment in infrastructure could create up to eleven million new jobs. Estimates suggest that $1 billion invested in Federal highway and transit alone would create thirteen thousand jobs.

Job creation alone isn’t enough. For the 10 million workers out of work today, infrastructure job creation could be a pathway back to economic security. And construction, manufacturing, and energy sectors were reporting workforce challenges long before our current crisis. An infrastructure package could help us meet these challenges head-on. But not without training. Many people don’t realize that job creation packages don’t automatically include investments in training. Nearly half of all jobs created by a $1 trillion infrastructure package would require some form of postsecondary education or training.

Read the full article about fostering economic recovery by Katie Spiker at Independent Sector.