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Enhancing Highway Workforce Development Opportunities Contracting Initiative

For information on hiring preferences authorized under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), please visit the hiring preferences web page.

Rebuilding the Nation’s infrastructure relies on the availability of highly skilled and experienced workers.

For State highway agencies and contractors, recruiting qualified construction workers can be challenging. For local community officials, a construction project can represent an employment opportunity for residents, and perhaps an opportunity to start on the path to a construction career. This opportunity can be especially critical for those who historically have experienced barriers to entering the transportation construction industry.

The initiative logo shows the words Workforce Development with intersecting circles on either side that read Hiring Preferences and Innovative Contracting.
A woman operating construction equipment is shown.

FHWA Pilot Program

The FHWA is offering a four-year pilot program to help States, local communities and the construction industry meet these challenges. The program provides contracting agencies with the flexibility to use hiring preferences and/or innovative contracting approaches not otherwise authorized by law. The approaches must have the potential to enhance workforce development opportunities in the transportation construction industry, including for those in low-income communities.

This initiative can be used to improve participation in existing training and apprenticeship programs, such as FHWA’s On-the-Job Training (OJT) programs, authorized under 23 U.S.C. 140(b) and 23 CFR Part 230, Subpart A, or other similar programs.

The pilot is open to recipients and subrecipients of Federal funds for Federal-aid highway projects. Participants are required to submit a SEP-14 workplan for FHWA approval, evaluate certain criteria, and provide periodic reporting, as described in the Federal Register Notice.

Since hiring preferences and innovative contracting approaches may have an impact on competition, this pilot program is being administered under FHWA’s Special Experimental Project No. 14 (SEP-14) program and pursuant to Section 199B of the 2021 Appropriations Act.

Transition to Hiring Preferences Authorized by Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Section 25019(a)

Section 25019(a) of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) – “Local Hiring Preference for Construction Jobs” – authorizes state and local agencies to implement a local or other geographical or economic hiring preference for labor on construction projects funded with funds under Title 23 or 49 USC.

Due to Section 25019(a), state and local agencies should look to this provision for local or other geographical or economic hiring preferences, including such preferences that may be utilized under a project labor agreement.   Since FHWA approval on an experimental basis of such hiring preferences authorized by BIL is no longer required, FHWA announced it has transitioned the Enhancing Workforce Development Opportunities (EHWDO) contracting initiative to hiring preferences authorized by BIL through a Federal Register Notice.

State and local recipients and subrecipients may continue to administer any contracts authorized under the EHWDO contracting initiative for the duration of these contracts per the requirements of their approved workplans.  The FHWA may continue to use Special Experimental Project No. 14 (SEP-14) to authorize and evaluate contracting methods that are outside the scope of Section 25019(a) of the BIL.

Webinar Recordings

Enhancing Highway Workforce Development Opportunities Contracting Initiative (6/9/21)
Workforce Development and Local Hire Peer Exchange (8/26/21)

To learn more, please visit the links in the Resources box, or contact us.

Updated: 06/16/2022
Federal Highway Administration | 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE | Washington, DC 20590 | 202-366-4000