By Dennis Slater, AEM President

Elected OfficialsOver the last century, generations of Americans enjoyed a state-of-the-art infrastructure. Our nation’s network of roads, bridges, railways, and ports enabled trade, powered businesses, connected workers to their jobs, and created opportunities for communities across the country. Our infrastructure was the backbone of the largest economy in the world.

Despite the importance of our infrastructure, we have not spent enough for decades to maintain and improve it. Thanks to a combination of insufficient funding and partisan gridlock in Washington, America has lost its infrastructure advantage. It is time for us to rebuild and modernize our infrastructure to retain our position as the world’s strongest economy in the 21st century.

Investing in our nation’s infrastructure comes with several benefits. According to a recent study by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, spending a trillion dollar on infrastructure will create millions of new jobs. This would be great news for our economy, the job market, and communities across the country.

The problem? Not enough Americans have skills needed to fill the type of jobs that are needed to undertake large-scale infrastructure projects. Americans across the political spectrum support major investments in our infrastructure. In fact, according to a recent AEM poll, more than two-thirds of Americans said infrastructure investment was an important and deciding factor for them during the 2018 midterm elections. But cannot rebuild our roads and bridges without the skilled workers. And we currently do not have enough of them. We must find ways to better train U.S. workers to fill the jobs that will be created by long-term investment in our infrastructure.

The good news is that our elected officials in Washington, D.C can help fix this problem. Americans can take comfort in the fact that infrastructure and workforce development are two issues that enjoy broad, bipartisan support, and Representatives Jim Langevin (D-RI), Glenn “G.T.” Thompson (R-PA), Donald Norcross (D-NJ), and David McKinley (R-WV) are leading the charge.

Representatives Langevin, Thompson, Norcross, and McKinley recently worked across party lines with over 40 bipartisan colleagues to urge leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives to support the inclusion of provisions on apprenticeship and job training in any infrastructure legislation that makes it across the finish line this year.

More specifically, the sort of commonsense provisions they have proposed would ensure that states devote a portion of funds to workforce development programs, with the flexibility to invest in programs for local infrastructure needs, designate incentives for infrastructure-related businesses to invest in apprenticeship programs, and secure resources for updating the facilities and equipment used in career and technical training programs in infrastructure sectors. If included, these provisions will strengthen many sectors of the U.S. economy, including manufacturing, and better prepare the next generation of American workers.

We need our elected officials to help the men and women looking for reliable, family-sustaining jobs. We also need them to set aside partisan bickering and focus on fixing our potholes, rebuilding our crumbling bridges, modernizing our airports, and adopting modern technology to grow our economy.

There is a path to close the skills gap in our country’s transportation infrastructure sector, but it cannot be done without the help from our elected officials. Any infrastructure package that goes to the President’s desk must include career and technical education and workforce development language.

Voters across the United States should thank Representatives Langevin, Thompson, Norcross, and McKinley, and tell other elected officials to join their colleagues in supporting the next generation of American workers.

As Congress continues to consider a comprehensive long-term infrastructure bill, the 1.3 million men and women of the equipment manufacturing industry urge our elected officials to follow the lead of Representatives Langevin, Thompson, Norcross, and McKinley and include provisions that support apprenticeship programs and advance workforce development in America.

Similar versions of this blog were published in the hometown newspapers of Representatives Langevin (The Providence Journal) and Thompson (The sCentre Daily Times, print only).

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