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On February 6th, Representatives Paul Mitchell (R-MI) and Tim Ryan (D-OH), introduced bipartisan legislation, the Building U.S. Infrastructure by Leveraging Demands for Skills (BUILDS) Act (HR4942), that would support grants to industry partnerships in transportation, construction, energy, and other infrastructure industries. The grants, administered by the U.S. Department of Labor in consultation with the Departments of Transportation, Energy, and other federal agencies, would allow local partnerships to develop work-based learning programming to develop a diverse pipeline of skilled workers. Senators Tim Kaine (D-VA) and Rob Portman (R-OH) introduced the Senate version of BUILDS in 2017.
Last summer the administration released a set of infrastructure principles that included a goal of training one million new apprentices over two years. The President included a call for infrastructure investments in his State of the Union earlier this year, however, without reiterating the link between that investment and developing a pipeline or workers.
BUILDS Act would set aside funding from a Congressional infrastructure package for workforce development. Funding would be used to train workers needed to help businesses in targeted industries grow and maintain the workforce necessary to keep up with demand, while also ensuring that a diverse range of workers could access the training and credentials needed to find sustainable, family-supporting jobs in these fields. Find more details about the BUILDS Act here.
Even before new investments, businesses in infrastructure face intense labor shortages because of impending retirements, a lack of diversity in the workforce, and overall skill shortages in growth industries. According to a report by the Departments of Education and Labor, there are 68 percent more projected job openings in infrastructure jobs over the next five years than there are students training for these jobs and According to a member survey conducted by the Aeronautical Repair Station Association, its members poised to lose out on close to $200 million in revenues this year due to unfilled technical jobs.
National Skills Coalition applauds Representatives Mitchell and Ryan for their leadership on this issue, and we look forward to working to working to advance the BUILDS Act as part of broader efforts to enhance our nation’s infrastructure.