Bipartisan Letter Urges Funding for Workforce Development in Infrastructure Bill

WASHINGTON – Today, Congressmen Jim Langevin (D-RI) and Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson (R-PA), co-chairs of the Congressional Career and Technical Education (CTE) Caucus, and Congressmen Donald Norcross (D-NJ) and David McKinley (R-WV), co-chairs of the Building Trades Caucus, sent a letter to House leadership and leaders on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee urging them to include workforce development investments in future infrastructure legislation. The letter comes a day after President Trump, Speaker Pelosi, and Senate Minority Leader Schumer met at the White House to discuss a way forward on infrastructure.

“Our nation’s deteriorating infrastructure is creating an array of challenges for communities in every state. As we consider the investments needed to revitalize our infrastructure, we must acknowledge that we will need a workforce capable of designing, building and maintaining it,” said Congressman Langevin. “It is essential that any comprehensive infrastructure package includes investments in career and technical education to ensure we have a skilled workforce that is ready to meet the challenge of rebuilding America.”  

“Any successful infrastructure package will require investments into a well-trained and educated workforce. We need skilled workers who can carry out the mission from design, through construction and completion, and beyond,” said Congressman Thompson. “When Congress passed the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, we made it clear that career and technical education programs, including apprenticeships, are proven workforce development strategies. We must ensure these policies are in place to support a plan that provides resources to individuals who stand ready and able to rebuild our nation’s infrastructure.”

On March 6, 2018, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao testified, “we probably will not have enough skilled trades workers to be able to address all the infrastructure needs when it finally gets all going... So, the workforce training and retraining part is important.” The Brookings Institute estimates that 3 million additional workers will be needed for infrastructure occupations over the next decade. A Georgetown University study found that a one trillion dollar infrastructure package could create more than 3.5 million more jobs that require more than a high school diploma but less than a bachelor’s degree. Career and technical education (CTE) programs target this range of skills, and, when combined with robust on-the-job training programs – including apprenticeships – they can help prepare workers for success in high-demand fields.

The letter, signed by a bipartisan coalition of 51 Members of Congress, highlights this looming workforce shortage and strategies to mitigate it. The signers request that any infrastructure package considered in the House contain a requirement that states dedicate a portion of the funding they receive to workforce development programs. They also highlight the need for incentives for infrastructure-related businesses that invest in work-based learning and encourage funding be provided for facility and equipment upgrades for CTE programs in infrastructure-related fields. These recommendations reflect Congress’s ongoing commitment to CTE as seen in last year’s enactment of the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, which reauthorized the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act.

“America needs a well-trained workforce to help build our future, and high-quality training programs are critical to our success,” said Congressman Norcross. “I owe my career path to a registered apprenticeship program – it’s what took me from construction work to Congress. As an electrician, I know firsthand that investing in America’s infrastructure is vital to our country’s growth. We desperately need to update our roads, bridges, rails, ports, airports, Electric Grid, pipes and more, and we need a well-trained workforce to do that.”

"If we’re going to rebuild our roads, bridges, water systems and other infrastructure, it’s important we have the skilled workforce to do the work,” said Congressman McKinley. “Any comprehensive infrastructure package must address the skills gap and provide serious investments in workforce development and training.”  

“Any major new infrastructure bill should include measures to help recruit and prepare Americans for the many high-paying construction career opportunities these needed investments will create,” said Stephen E. Sandherr, the Chief Executive Officer of the Associated General Contractors of America. “Including these needed workforce provisions will guarantee that the new infrastructure bill will have the best possible impact on the American economy.”

"A skilled workforce is required not just to build infrastructure, but also to plan, design, maintain and operate it," said LeAnn Wilson, Executive Director of the Association for Career and Technical Education. "We commend Representatives Langevin, Thompson and other Members of Congress who recognize the important role career and technical education (CTE) plays in ensuring a skilled infrastructure workforce. We join them in urging congressional leaders to include a significant investment in workforce development along with any infrastructure package."

In addition to Langevin, Thompson, Norcross and McKinley, the letter is signed by U.S. Representatives Adams, Axne, Balderson, Bonamici, Brindisi, Brooks, Brown, Brownley, Carson, Casten, Cox, Craig, Emmer, Finkenauer, Fitzpatrick, Harder, Heck, Higgins, Horn, Johnson (GA), Krishnamoorthi, LaHood, Lamb, Larsen, Latta, Luetkemeyer, Malinowski, Marshall, Moulton, O’Halleran, Pocan, Richmond, Ryan, Schrader, Scott (GA), Slotkin, Smith (WA), Stefanik, Steil, Suozzi, Thompson (CA), Trahan, Viscolsky, Welch, Wittman, Yarmuth, and Young.

The letter is supported by North America’s Building Trades Union, Associated General Contractors, Association for Career and Technical Education, Advance CTE, Opportunity America, SkillsUSA, National Skills Coalition, National Roofing Contractors Association, Association of Equipment Manufacturers, and National Asphalt Pavement Association.

Earlier today, Langevin and Thompson testified about the need for workforce investment at the “Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Members’ Day Hearing.”

Full text of the letter.

Langevin’s testimony at the Members’ Day Hearing.

Thompson’s testimony at the Members’ Day Hearing.