Innovative strategies to identify, train, place, and retain workers in highway construction jobs that support the Nation's highway system.
The demand for highway construction, maintenance, and operations workers is growing while industry is experiencing a revolution of emerging technologies that will require new skills. To attract and retain workers in the contractors' workforce, new resources are available to help State, local, and tribal communities compete with other industries and demonstrate the value of a career in transportation. Increasing the highway construction workforce can help communities thrive while solving one of today's most persistent national transportation problems and offers an opportunity to recruit underrepresented groups, including minorities and women, to jobs that can change their lives.
An Industry and Public Workforce Collaboration
According to a 2021 national survey by the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), 89 percent of construction firms reported difficulty finding qualified workers. In addition, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that construction occupations are projected to grow 4 percent from 2021 to 2031.
FHWA partnered with the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, AGC, the American Road & Transportation Builders Association, and the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration to bring together various parties interested in workforce development in the highway construction field. One result of this partnership is a highway construction workforce development playbook called “Identify, Train, Place.” The playbook helps State, local, and tribal communities identify, train, and place workers in the contractor workforce to meet resource needs to deliver highway construction projects. The playbook includes simple, repeatable “plays” that departments of transportation (DOTs), workforce development boards, community colleges, non-profits, and contractors can use. The plays reflect solutions to workforce development challenges and are customizable to local needs. Additionally, with its workforce partners, FHWA developed a comprehensive toolkit, with factsheets, profiles, case studies, and marketing materials.
Effective Solutions. Case studies, pilot profiles, and other resources are available to help identify potential workers to enter highway construction training programs and careers.
Proven Training. Agency collaborations have created successful highway construction training programs that are graduating trained employees ready for the workforce.
Customizable Outreach. Strategic workforce development toolkit materials and outreach events can boost efforts to place and retain workers in highway construction careers.
State of Practice
Across the country, State DOTs are partnering with workforce development boards, community colleges, nonprofits, and contractors to tackle the shortage in qualified workers for highway construction projects.
- Texas’s ConnectU2Jobs program prepares and trains justice-involved young adults between the ages of 18 and 24 for careers in the heavy highway construction industry. Two cohorts graduated in 2022, and almost all cohort participants graduated with their National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) Core Construction Level 1 Certification and NCCER Heavy Equipment Operator Level 1 Certification.
- The Arizona chapter of the AGC developed an Industry Readiness Program that offers 10 weeks of on-the-job training for job seekers entering the heavy civil construction industry. In 2021, 121 trainees participated in the program and 19 apprentices reached journeyman status.
- Idaho’s Highway Construction Workforce Partnership established a Heavy Equipment Operator Training program that includes certifications in heavy equipment operation as well as hazardous waste operations and emergency response. In 2022, 92 percent of the trainees graduated the program and 80 percent obtained jobs in the construction industry.