Educating to Employ: Public Works Programs Help to Close Gaps

[fa icon="calendar"] Jun 20, 2018 7:21:34 PM / by WinCan

Sewer Inspection Team Working With WinCan VXThe jobs report may show the unemployment rate at a rare low, but one industry has been struggling to hire for several years now. Municipalities are facing a workforce gap as Baby Boomers continue to enter retirement–and the jobs available are struggling to draw a younger crowd.

The paradox here is that public works programs were created to fix unemployment—not suffer from it. In the throes of the Great Depression, the Works Progress Administration (renamed the Works Projects Administration in 1939) was established to create jobs, particularly in infrastructure. There were even smaller programs designed to employ younger demographics, like the National Youth Administration. Nowadays, the need for public works remains, but younger workers are turning to jobs in other industries.

A Growing Problem

So, how can municipalities close their growing unemployment gaps? A new era of public works programs could be the solution.

Proactive efforts to hire new entrants are the first place to start. Outreach programs at local high schools and community colleges, employer presence at networking and hiring events for younger crowds, and media coverage all help to get the word out about available opportunities. But because public works projects generally require highly-skilled labor to get the job done, they may still face hiring challenges

To help close the skills gap, municipalities across the U.S. are developing training programs to create employment opportunities for local residents. These training programs equip students with in-demand skills, creating a win-win for the community.

Training Programs

In Washington, D.C., the DC Infrastructure Academy is helping to fill the nearly 1,000 infrastructure-related jobs left open in the city last year. DCIA brings multiple workforce development programs together, along with utility company, union and university partners. Participants receive skills training for jobs in transportation, energy, IT infrastructure and the like, and the program is particularly focused on serving underemployed and unemployed residents.

In Grand Rapids, Mich., municipalities have partnered with the local community college to create the Public Works Academy. For a $25 registration fee, participants receive seven weeks of training for a variety of positions. At the end of the program, they’ll interview with two community partners for seasonal work or an internship at public works facilities in the state.

Into the Future

If the job descriptions and training programs for public works positions still aren’t appealing to the younger workforce, perhaps the earning potential will. DCIA graduates will earn an average of $48.75 her hour–that’s over 2.5 times the average hourly wage college graduates earn starting out.

Public works programs are crucial to maintaining infrastructure within local communities, and they play a vital role in ensuring the employment and success of residents. The industry faces a looming workforce gap, but with the right approach, it can be closed. A well-equipped younger generation can help build a brighter future for all.

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