Statement of the Hon. Jason Crow on Growing Jobs through Infrastructure Investment
Washington, May 6, 2021
It’s no secret that America’s infrastructure has long been in decline. The World Economic Forum ranked the United States 13th in the world for infrastructure in 2019. Our country earned a C- in a recent infrastructure report card issued by the American Society of Civil Engineers, continuing a streak of subpar marks from the organization. Across the country, roads, bridges, and railways are crumbling.
In April, President Biden announced the American Jobs Plan. The framework would invest nearly $2 trillion in the national infrastructure over the next decade. The plan would modernize 20,000 miles of highway, repair 10,000 bridges, eliminate all lead water pipes, and provide high-speed broadband to all Americans.
In the process, America’s infrastructure revitalization would boost our nation’s small businesses. In multiple nationwide surveys, over half of small business owners viewed infrastructure spending as an integral to their business’s success.
Small firms rely on new bridges, new electrical transmission lines, and accessible high-speed internet to ship their products, power their business, and market their brands.
By investing in infrastructure, we can help entrepreneurs reach new domestic and international markets, tap new suppliers, and ultimately expand their business.
The American Jobs Plan represents a generational investment in American infrastructure. If enacted into law, President Biden’s plan will lead to a wave of job creation unprecedented in recent memory.
However, it is not enough to create jobs. Our country needs a pipeline of skilled workers to fill them. The infrastructure workforce is staring down a deficit of qualified employees. Infrastructure workers number 17.2 million nationally, and more than a quarter of them are projected to retire or permanently leave their positions over the next decade. A 2020 survey found 72 percent of construction firms anticipated that labor shortages would be their biggest hurdle in 2021.
On top of that, many of those who permanently lost a job due to COVID were concentrated in low-income sectors like service and retail. These workers will need skills training to fill the void in the infrastructure workforce.
If we are to successfully rejuvenate America’s infrastructure, we’ll need qualified workers to get the job done. That’s why the American Jobs Plan invests $100 billion in workforce development programs.
These funds will help underserved groups like women and people of color, including a $40 billion investment in a new Dislocated workers program and a $48 billion investment in workforce development infrastructure and worker protection.
With college tuition costs skyrocketing and little guarantee that a degree will lead to a middle-class lifestyle, apprenticeships are gaining popularity. Apprenticeships are mutually beneficial for businesses and their employees. Workers are compensated as they learn new skills and firms have the opportunity to develop otherwise ineligible applicants into valued members of their team.
The American Community College system also provides students with the skills needed to get a good job after graduation. These institutions are located all around the country and are sometimes more accessible than 4-year universities. They often work with the private sector to determine workforce needs.
I hope that today’s hearing will allow us to explore workforce development programs and discuss how Congress can leverage them to train a new generation of workers.