More than a year since the COVID-19 recession began, the economic recovery is gaining momentum. Businesses and schools are reopening. Incomes and consumer spending are up. Households are traveling and getting out more. However, the deep and uneven impacts of the recession still surround us, especially for the millions of workers who remain jobless and left behind.

Leaders in Washington, D.C. and across the country realize the importance of focusing on both the pace and equity of economic recovery. Proposals to boost incomes, build affordable housing, and bridge digital divides are attempting to help more people and places. President Joe Biden’s American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan outline several major steps to support such a recovery—not only focusing on physical infrastructure upgrades to stimulate economic growth, but also emphasizing the importance of training and recruiting infrastructure workers to support a more enduring, equitable 21st century economy.

These generational investments in the nation’s transportation, water, energy, and broadband systems demand a careful look at who will be constructing and operating them for decades to come. From electricians and traffic technicians to civil engineers and water treatment operators, 17 million workers are directly employed in infrastructure. They tend to earn higher wages, require lower levels of formal education, and many are retiring—presenting a huge window of opportunity. Past infrastructure investments have failed to reach workers across all races, genders, and backgrounds; we cannot afford to repeat that mistake in the wake of another recession.

Rather than fixating on “what is infrastructure,” federal policymakers need to focus on ensuring equitable access to opportunities created through an infrastructure stimulus. Ideally, policies can encourage additional training and recruitment among those who have been hit hardest by the recession and could economically benefit most, including women and workers of color.

Read the full article about inclusivity in infrastructure jobs by Caroline George and Joseph Kane at Brookings.