At a time when many Americans are struggling to access economic opportunity and many of the country’s infrastructure assets are at the end of their useful life, infrastructure jobs offer considerable promise.1 Workers in these jobs earn competitive wages and face lower educational barriers to entry.2 They develop extensive knowledge and transferable skills that cut across multiple disciplines.3 And the coming wave of retirements and other employment shifts in the infrastructure sector means prospective workers can find long-term careers.
The country’s water infrastructure is emblematic of this significant opportunity. From pipes and pumps to rivers and lakes, water systems are in urgent need of repair, maintenance, and restoration. At the same time, water workers are in relatively short supply, both for public utilities and a wide range of other employers.
To seize this infrastructure and economic opportunity, the report provides a benchmark of the nation’s 1.7 million water workers and lays out a set of actionable strategies–a new water workforce playbook–that local, state, and national leaders should use in future hiring, training, and retention efforts. In the process, the report emphasizes that modernizing the country’s water systems and approaches to workforce development offers scalable lessons for other infrastructure sectors.
- Joseph Kane and Robert Puentes, “Beyond Shovel-Ready: The Extent and Impact of U.S. Infrastructure Jobs.” Brookings, 2014).
- Joseph Kane and Robert Puentes, “Expanding Opportunity through Infrastructure Jobs” (Brookings, May 7, 2015).
- Joseph Kane and Adie Tomer, “Infrastructure Skills: Knowledge, Tools, and Training to Increase Opportunity” (Brookings, 2016).