September 21, 2021

Biden’s Infrastructure Plan: Scarcity of Skilled Workers Poses Challenge

He wants to hire more skilled masons to finish the projects sooner, but he can’t find enough people to fill the dozen positions he has open, even though he is willing to pay up to $50 an hour — twice what he offered before the pandemic. He checks his email daily, waiting for more applications to come in.

“My biggest struggle is finding guys that want to work,” Mr. Kadavy said.

Even when he does hear from applicants, Mr. Kadavy said, he is unable to hire many of them because they are not qualified enough. He was already seeing a shortage of skilled masons before the pandemic, he said, and he worries that the craft is “dying” because newer generations are not pursuing the field.

The nation’s public transit systems would receive $39 billion under the infrastructure bill, allowing agencies to expand service and upgrade decades-old infrastructure. But transit agencies are dealing with worker shortages of their own, facing a dearth of bus drivers, subway operators and maintenance technicians.

Metro Transit in Minneapolis is trying to hire about 100 bus drivers by the end of the year, said Brian Funk, the agency’s acting chief operating officer. The agency had originally aimed to hire 70 workers by the end of June, but it met only about half of that goal.

Although he is optimistic that the agency will be able to fill those remaining positions after ramping up efforts to promote the openings, he said he was still wary about some workers choosing to leave.

“We know that every day that goes by, there’s the potential that somebody else is looking at either retirement or another job,” Mr. Funk said.

Some are optimistic that policymakers will be able to scale up work force development programs to keep up with the demand the infrastructure bill would create. Projects could take several months to get started, economists said, giving the country time to train workers who are not yet qualified.

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