Effort to Help Rebuild Skilled Workforce
“As we invest in world-class infrastructure for Americans, we want to make sure that our investments create jobs for people in the communities where the projects are located,” said U.S. Transportation (USDOT) Secretary Pete Buttigieg as he announced expanded “local hire” and workforce opportunity pilot programs to be managed USDOT, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and Federal Transit Administration (FTA). This reverses a longstanding federal policy that has not permitted the use of hiring mandates on federal-aid highway and transit projects.
With this announcement, both FHWA’s and FTA’s programs will give contracting agencies expanded flexibility to use hiring preferences to enhance workforce development opportunities for those in economically or socially disadvantaged communities. A similar USDOT pilot program was in effect during the Obama administration from 2015 to 2017.
L.A. Metro welcomed the move. Metro CEO Phil Washington called it a “wise and prudent decision,” noting, “This action — which is entirely consistent with the Biden-Harris Administration’s Justice40 Initiative — will ensure that local transportation projects benefit local workers. I am encouraged that moving forward, as we build infrastructure projects across Los Angeles County, we will be able to empower local communities by offering good paying jobs to local residents.”
FHWA’s Enhancing Workforce Development Opportunities Contracting Initiative will be carried out as a pilot program for a period of four years (unless extended) under FHWA’s existing experimental contracting authority. It is intended to rebuild the skilled workforce needed to improve the nation’s transportation infrastructure and permits contractors to utilize geographic, economic, or other hiring preferences on federal-aid highway projects.
The FTA’s Economic Recovery and Workforce Development Through Construction Hiring Pilot Program, is a four-year pilot program allowing transit agencies to use geographic, economic, or other hiring preferences on FTA-funded construction projects.
While these initiatives will make efforts to improve participation in existing training and apprenticeship programs, AGC CEO Steve Sandherr commented that the issue with local hire programs, is that “too many communities have defunded their career and technical education programs and as a result there are often too few local workers with any interest in construction careers or basic skills that would make them qualified to be hired.” Additionally, some organizations had expressed concerns about potential increases in project costs and undermining of safety on the job site.
Find out more about FTA and FHWA’s local hire programs and keep up-to-date on important infrastructure issues by listening to our podcast, following us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and signing up for the Rebuild SoCal Partnership newsletter.