DOL Announces Infrastructure Workforce Initiative
To commemorate Equal Pay Day, the U.S. Department of Labor announced a new initiative to promote equal opportunity by federal contractors on large infrastructure projects. The program was established by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP).
“Right now, America is taking on some of the most ambitious infrastructure projects in living memory, and we cannot succeed if we leave any talent on the table,” said Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg.
“The infrastructure we’re building today will strengthen our economy, keep our citizens safe, and create a generation of good jobs that can lift millions to new levels of prosperity and financial security.”
About the Program
The Mega Construction Project Program will reportedly focus on bringing public and private sectors together on a select group of projects known as “Megaprojects” to provide a diverse pool of qualified workers with access to good jobs in the construction trades.
Megaprojects are large federal construction projects valued at $35 million or more (some part of which must be federal funding) and that last more than one year. According to the DOL, these projects are a “key tool” in helping create entry into careers for underrepresented workers and help close gender and racial pay gaps.
For the initial group of Megaprojects, the OFCCP reports it will partner with the General Services Administration and the U.S. Department of Transportation to provide no-cost compliance assistance to contractors and subcontractors to strengthen recruitment, hiring and fair employment practices. These efforts will reportedly focus on hiring underrepresented communities, including women, into the construction workforce.
Additionally, the office plans to provide free, continuous, on-the-ground assistance to help project owners with stakeholder outreach and information sharing, providing connections to recruitment sources in the community so that projects can fully use the local workforce to get the needed talent.
“The newly launched Mega Construction Project Program will focus on some of the nation’s most important infrastructure projects to provide equal opportunity to all workers by removing barriers that have historically prevented our construction trades from tapping the full talent that exists in communities that have been underrepresented,” explained Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs Director Jenny R. Yang.
“With the once-in-a-generation investments in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we established this program to use this momentum to create equal opportunities for all of America’s workers to prosper.”
OFCCP adds that successful implementation of this work will aid investments made in the bipartisan infrastructure law, the CHIPS and Science Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act. This will also help construction contractors in recruiting, hiring and retaining all available talent to advance the success of infrastructure projects across the nation.
Previous Initiatives, Employment Stats
All over North America, several reports have indicated that the construction industry is continuing to undergo challenges related to supply chain disruptions, labor shortages and recruitment, among others.
While projects are still being scheduled out, some builders have been forced to defer or cancel work as they continue to address these issues.
To help the industry, over the summer The White House announced that over $40 billion in American Rescue Plan funds had been committed to strengthening and expanding the United States’ workforce.
According to the announcement, the investments in the workforce—along with the American Rescue Plan’s direct payroll support that has saved or restored jobs across a broad set of industries—have contributed to a record 9 million jobs added since President Biden took office.
A half-day White House Summit on the American Rescue Plan and the Workforce held at the time was noted to focus on thee major areas of the American Rescue Plan investment:
Through these initiatives, it was reported that President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris launched the Administration’s Infrastructure Talent Pipeline Challenge.
Around the same time the initial launch took place, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo announced that $500 million in government funding was awarded to 32 industry-led workforce training partnerships across the nation.
The grant awards are part of the Good Jobs Challenge, an effort through President Biden’s American Rescue Plan to enable communities across the country to invest in innovative approaches to workforce development and secure job opportunities for more than 50,000 Americans.
The Good Jobs Challenge is administered by the Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration.
In November of last year, President Biden recognized more than 350 organizations in the nation’s 50 states for their commitments as part of the Infrastructure Talent Pipeline Challenge.
Initially launched in June by the Biden-Harris Administration, the nationwide initiative calls on employers, unions, education and training providers, states, local governments, Tribes, territories, philanthropic organizations, and other stakeholders to help support equitable workforce development.
The Challenge is focused on three sectors: broadband, construction and electrification.
Thanks to the bipartisan infrastructure law—along with the CHIPS and Science Act, Inflation Reduction Act and American Rescue Plan—millions of union jobs are being created, and the Challenge is ensuring that workers across the country are being properly trained for these jobs, according to the administration.
Through them, nearly 150 employers, unions and community-based organizations will reportedly create or expand pre-apprenticeships, registered apprenticeships and other high-quality training programs. In addition, more than 60 organizations will increase recruitment among workers who are traditionally underrepresented in infrastructure sectors, while nearly 30 organizations have pledged to provide supportive services, such as childcare and transportation.
Advancements in equitable workforce development will also be carried out by over 50 institutions of higher education focused on infrastructure jobs. And lastly, more than $70 million in aligned philanthropic commitments will be used to advance the goals of the Talent Pipeline Challenge, which is expected to impact tens of thousands of underrepresented workers.
A recent analysis of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey by the Associated Builders and Contractors found that construction industry jobs fell sharply by 240,000 on a monthly basis in January.
The report indicated there were 248,000 job openings in January, with almost half of all construction job openings disappearing since the month prior. That number is also down 148,000 from the same time last year.
Overall, in January, the construction industry reportedly saw 391,000 hires, an increase of 5% from the month prior. Year-over-year, this number has increased 20.7%.