Investing in infrastructure can stimulate economic growth and unleash job creation nationally. Whether building roads, repairing pipes, or upgrading power plants, investments in the country’s transportation, water, energy, and broadband systems not only supports more economic output, but also drives the need for more workers. Several new pieces of federal legislation—including the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), and the CHIPS and Science Act—are pumping hundreds of billions of dollars toward new projects and new jobs and are launching generational levels of investment not seen since the New Deal.
Leaders risk squandering this generational window of infrastructure investment if they only focus on future job creation without addressing the cracking foundation of the country’s current workforce.
But national, state, and local leaders risk squandering this generational window of infrastructure investment if they only focus on future job creation without addressing the cracking foundation of the country’s current workforce.
Infrastructure investment already supports millions of workers nationally. Moving goods, producing energy, managing water, and carrying out many other essential activities depends on workers across every corner of the country and is foundational to economic growth and opportunity. Yet, hiring, training, and retention gaps remain vast across this workforce, as fewer workers are entering these careers and more workers are retiring and leaving these jobs than ever before. At the same time, too few of these job opportunities are filled by younger students, women, and people of color.
How can leaders expand the future infrastructure workforce if they cannot even hold onto the current infrastructure workforce? This report aims to equip leaders with more consistent data and information to better target, measure, and address their infrastructure workforce needs. It builds off past Brookings research to provide an updated look at current U.S. infrastructure employment, showing the hurdles faced by individual workers to fill these jobs and grow their careers.
Methods on defining and measuring the infrastructure workforce is available in a downloadable appendix.