VTCA and Industry Meet with Virginia’s Workforce Development Boards
We are all looking for the next talent pipeline and there is no easy answer. But our efforts will not go wasted if we work together at every level in local communities.
Last week VTCA and other industry representatives met with several local Workforce Development Boards to discuss ways we can partner together to attract future workers. The local workforce development boards know Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) is putting significant dollars toward projects, but virtually none for workforce marketing, development, or training. However, there is another avenue we will pursue with caution.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) Section 13007 (Workforce Development, Training, and Education) gives states the flexibility to fund workforce development activities. States can use unlimited funds from four large federal-aid highway programs: National Highway Performance Program; Surface Transportation Block Grant Program; Highway Safety Improvement Program; and Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Program. BIL dramatically expands the amount of potential funding for workforce development. Furthermore, BIL expands the number and type of project eligibilities.
States can choose to dedicate funds for workforce development - the BIL’s new flexibility has no maximum or minimum expenditure level. Workforce activities are eligible for 100% federal share - no local matching funds required. Most other formula program projects only receive 80% federal share. Approximately $50 billion per year is made available, so even a small proportion can have significant impacts on the transportation workforce. Each state’s apportionment is different based on formulas that ensure each state receives a minimum share of all highway program funds.
What Workforce Development Projects can be Funded?
Funding is flexible if projects support one of the following four goals: a) increasing women and minority participation; b) addressing workforce gaps; c) building skills supporting emerging transportation technologies; and d) attracting new sources of job-creating investment. The statute calls out the following specific options for how the funding can be used, among other activities:
- Tuition and other financial support to universities, community colleges, and vocational schools
- Apprenticeship, pre-apprenticeship, and on-the-job training
- Activities associated with industry stakeholders, workforce development boards, labor organizations, and economic development organization
- Student internships
- Outreach campaigns to develop interest in transportation careers and employment programs Example Projects
- Create pre-apprenticeship programs that lead to registered apprenticeship slots.
- Establish career pathways outreach programs for middle and high school students.
- Fund a community college or vocational school in your area to train needed tradespeople.
- Offer grants to local workforce development board to create a sector partnership in highway construction.
- Create a funding pool that registered apprenticeship programs and qualified pre-apprenticeship programs can draw from for supportive services such as funding for tools, transportation, and childcare.
VTCA and industry are mindful of possible “strings” that come with federal dollars; however, we must continue to look for ways to improve the workforce situation as projects continue to develop.