Kudos for commitments toward equitable workforce development for infrastructure jobs

The White House on Wednesday held an event to recognize hundreds of organizations — including more than 30 community colleges and five community and technical college systems — that have committed to supporting equitable workforce development following the passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), which will need a skilled workforce to carry out an array of ambitious projects.

At the event, President Joe Biden noted the commitments made by more than 350 organizations as part of the Infrastructure Talent Pipeline Challenge, which the administration launched this summer as a nationwide call to action for employers, unions, education and training providers, states, local governments and other stakeholders to make commitments that support equitable workforce development focused on three critical sectors: broadband, construction and electrification.

Biden gave a shoutout to community colleges during the event for their flexibility and willingness to serve their communities.

“What do you need in the community? Go to the community college, tell them. They will set up a training program with you,” he said.

Examples of commitments from community colleges cited in a White House fact sheet include:

  • Bunker Hill Community College (Massachusetts) is expanding its partnerships with companies and unions to meet training needs in broadband, electrification, transportation and clean energy.
  • Northwood Technical College (Wisconsin) and NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association are partnering to develop training programs through which students can pursue Northwood’s online academic offerings matched with mentored, on-the-job work experience with hundreds of NTCA rural broadband providers and earn proficiency badges in the process.
  • Arizona Western College will expand its registered apprenticeship program to serve up to 200 workers in the broadband installation field.

Several other organizations also include community colleges in their plans. For example:

  • Lumina Foundation is investing $400,000 in Virginia’s Infrastructure Academy, a public-private partnership led by Virginia community colleges which will help 35,000 Virginians — particularly from communities of color — gain skills and credentials in the transportation, wind and solar, and broadband industries.
  • Sila Nanotechnologies, Inc. is forming partnerships with the Columbia Basin Technical Skills Center, Big Bend Community College (Washington) and other institutions to recruit, train and develop women and other underrepresented candidates for skilled labor openings in Moses Lake, Washington. Sila is providing support for curriculum, internships and funding, and offering employees tuition and training assistance.

The Biden administration will also provide new and ongoing federal investments and administrative actions, such as a comprehensive new guidebook “Advancing Equitable Workforce Development for Infrastructure Jobs,” which provides an overview of federal funding resources and opportunities.

In addition, the Department of Labor (DOL) will announce an $80 million competition to support training in eligible infrastructure occupations, according to the fact sheet. DOL will also uplift a new Training and Employment Notice to help infrastructure project leads and other stakeholders implement BIL with strong workforce commitments and proven strategies that produce high-quality education, training and employment opportunities for all workers.

About the Author

Matthew Dembicki
Matthew Dembicki edits Community College Daily and serves as associate vice president of communications for the American Association of Community Colleges.
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