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President-elect Donald Trump’s proposal to spend up to $1 trillion on infrastructure over the next decade could create more than 11 million jobs, but there are some potential roadblocks.
More than half those jobs would go to workers with a high school education or less, according to a report released Jan. 11 by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce. It also found that men fill 92 percent of infrastructure jobs.
A 10-year “infrastructure boom” would still be temporary, the report said. There would be a long-term challenge of workers transferring skills learned through those infrastructure jobs to careers available when the boom dies down, it said.
But the envisioned boom would help reverse a decades-long trend in which workers have been left behind as the U.S. has shakily transitioned from a manufacturing-based blue-collar economy to a high-tech service economy, Anthony Carnevale, the center’s director and a co-author of the report, told Bloomberg BNA.
“The ones with the biggest losses are the males, because they’re the ones who had the blue-collar jobs that paid well with only a high school degree or even as a high school dropout,” Carnevale said. “This is a direct shot in the arm for those people—it will work.”
Carnevale also pointed to the report’s finding that for workers with less than a bachelor’s degree, infrastructure jobs tend to have higher median wages than other jobs.
One-third of the generated infrastructure jobs would require post-secondary degrees, certificates, licenses or at least six months of training, the report found. It said the other two-thirds would require at most six months of training.
The “devil is in the details” in terms of whatever education and training strategies would develop as part of the envisioned 10-year boom, Carnevale said. Employers on infrastructure projects likely would encounter skilled labor shortages right at the start of the boom, he said.
“Unless there’s a deliberate effort to make sure we skill up for this, we’re going to run into problems,” Carnevale said.
Though the education barrier for many of these potential infrastructure jobs wouldn’t be high, the jobs would require a considerable amount of on-the-job training, Joseph Kane, a senior research analyst and associate fellow at the Brooking Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program, told Bloomberg BNA.
The training that would be needed should spur long-term conversations surpassing “any single federal plan or strategy,” and it would require “action from public, private and civic stakeholders at increasingly a regional level,” Kane said.
There is a wide variety of infrastructure work that goes beyond “simply workers on the side of the road working with a shovel,” Kane said. Many infrastructure jobs might require knowledge of a range of subjects such as transportation, public safety, design and geography, he said.
The training required for such jobs is often “transferable knowledge” that isn’t limited to one particular occupation or industry and is applicable to many other types of jobs in the economy, Kane said.
“When we are talking about the potential for increased wages and for pathways to greater opportunity, these positions do stand at a very unique point, unlike many other jobs where we are seeing higher barriers to entry or even in many cases the prospect for automation,” Kane said.
The report analyzed only the impact of Trump’s infrastructure plan on jobs and education. The infrastructure spending, combined with Trump’s proposed economic policies, could generate inflation leading to further interest rate hikes, the report noted.
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The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce report is available at https://cew.georgetown.edu/wp-content/uploads/TrumpInfrastructure.pdf.
Copyright © 2017 The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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