States Bolster Transportation Workforce through Apprenticeship Programs

The National Governors Association (NGA) Center for Best Practices is working with four states – Connecticut, Idaho, Oregon and North Carolina – to utilize IIJA funds to scale pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs.

The bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) is providing Governors and their states and territories enhanced federal investment to offer work-based learning (WBL) opportunities to those seeking a job in the transportation workforce and other key infrastructure industries – expanding how funds for four multi-billion-dollar surface transportation programs can be used to support pre-apprenticeships and apprenticeships, among other WBL activities. At the virtual project launch meeting on June 1, officials from the U.S. Department of Transportation unveiled a new fact sheet on using highway funds for workforce development activities.

The National Governors Association (NGA) Center for Best Practices is working with four states – Connecticut, Idaho, North Carolina, and Oregon – to utilize IIJA funds to scale pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs. The new initiative builds on NGA Center’s Policy Academy on Scaling Work-Based Learning, through which NGA has worked with a cumulative 24 states and territories over six years. Building on their work in the Policy Academy, the four states will receive technical assistance from the NGA Center as they strategically utilize the historic federal infrastructure investment for pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship in transportation infrastructure occupations.

Governors of the four participating states underlined their commitment to connecting workers with career opportunities while enhancing infrastructure in their states:

  • Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont: “Through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Connecticut has an opportunity to not only support the rehabilitation of critical highway and roads infrastructure but to train and support job seekers looking for work in the trade industries. By coordinating with the Office of Workforce Strategy, departments of Transportation and Labor, and two of our largest trade unions, Connecticut is focused on creating access to high quality careers – especially for underrepresented workers.”
  • Idaho Governor Brad Little: “Apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship are among my top priorities for workforce development. We have nearly tripled the number of Idaho businesses sponsoring apprenticeships in the span of three years. The Idaho Transportation Department and the Idaho Workforce Development Council see great opportunities to deepen their collaboration as Idaho invests more than $525 million in transportation projects over the next five years.”
  • North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper: “North Carolina is investing federal infrastructure funds toward transformational changes that will enhance quality of life and help businesses thrive. Work-based learning, pre-apprenticeships and apprenticeships are an essential part of our strategy to develop the transportation and infrastructure workforce. Our collaborative team – including the Governor’s Office, departments of Transportation and Commerce, and education and industry leaders – is focused on developing a well-trained and diverse transportation workforce.”
  • Oregon Governor Kate Brown: “Oregon has made unprecedented investments to build a skilled and diverse workforce. Our Future Ready Oregon package invests in education, training, and wraparound supports to help Oregonians get into good-paying jobs with career pathways. Coupled with federal investments to expand broadband access, electric vehicle adoption, and other vital infrastructure – Oregon is poised to develop and expand its workforce for the future. Together, with a focus on historically underserved and vulnerable communities, these investments will advance our mutual goals of prosperity and recovery as we work to build a just and equitable Oregon and United States of America.”

Apprenticeship is a proven model of job training and education that allows workers to earn a paycheck while they train for quality jobs under the supervision of a mentor. Pre-apprenticeship models, which help build basic math, literacy, or other skills needed to succeed as an apprentice, are gaining steam across states as on-ramps into apprenticeship programs. Importantly, pre-apprenticeships have the potential to diversify the talent pipeline of apprenticeships and associated industries and occupations by providing the entry-level skills needed so those who would not traditionally qualify can access these programs. This is especially relevant in transportation and construction jobs, as the industry is still overwhelmingly male.

Generously funded by the Siemens Foundation, this project is one of the many ways NGA is supporting governors in IIJA implementation.

 “The Siemens Foundation is excited to build upon its longstanding partnership with the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices to help states take advantage of this momentous federal investment in infrastructure to increase pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs,” said Siemens Foundation Chief Executive Officer David Etzwiler. “This effort will assist communities across the country by helping workers from diverse backgrounds get into family-sustaining careers and employers find talented workers to fill in-demand jobs, all while building, repairing, and maintaining our country’s roads and highways.”

The selected state teams will bring together leaders in workforce, postsecondary education, transportation, and infrastructure to scale these important programs and help fill in-demand surface transportation jobs. States will also develop action-focused plans to increase the number of underrepresented populations in these programs and industries, including women, people of color, and workers in rural communities.

For more information about this project please contact Rachel Hirsch.