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Expanding the Infrastructure Talent Pipeline and Boosting Economic Opportunity

On March 31, 2022, Brookings Metro Fellow Joseph W. Kane testified to the U.S. House Committee on Small Business’ Subcommittee on Innovation, Entrepreneurship, and Workforce Development, during a hearing titled Skill, Upskill, and Reskill: Analyzing New Investments in Workforce Development.

Framed against the recent passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), Kane’s testimony focused on the unprecedented opportunity to rejuvenate careers that pay higher wages, require shorter-term credentials, and need a new generation of talent. His remarks emphasized how federal, state, and local leaders can harness the IIJA funding to expand opportunities for the full diversity of our workforce—women and men, the unemployed and underemployed, and younger students and adult learners—across a broad range of positions in the skilled trades and other in-demand fields.

In his testimony, Kane relayed research insights focused on several key principles to strengthen the country’s infrastructure talent pipeline, including:

  1. Defining the infrastructure workforce challenge
  2. Seizing the infrastructure workforce opportunity

Toward supporting a robust talent pipeline—not just in the next five years of IIJA implementation, but for decades to come—Kane’s testimony emphasized two key focus areas for leaders to focus efforts on:

  • Visibility: Proactive regional planning and employer engagement
  • Flexibility: Skills development and more accessible training opportunities

In concluding his testimony remarks, Kane emphasized the opportunity that congressional and other leaders have to further refine and test potential applications of any new federal funding—to not simply reinforce existing and inequitable workforce gaps, but to create stronger pathways for all prospective workers, including those underrepresented in infrastructure and infrastructure-adjacent occupations. Doing so has the potential to expand economic opportunity well beyond the IIJA’s initial launch and into years to come, Kane noted.

To read Kane’s full testimony, click here. To watch the testimony video, click here.

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