AEM Hosts Infrastructure Workforce Development Event in Nashville
AEM, the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerceand the Brookings InstitutionThe Metropolitan Policy Program has partnered to host business leaders, educators and policy makers in Nashville for discussions on how to build a strong infrastructure workforce in Tennessee and throughout the country.
the Evententitled Developing Generational Talent: Infrastructure Workforce Opportunities in Tennessee and Beyondfeatured local and national speakers who shared their views and voices on the critical shortage of skilled workers and how public and private sector leaders can better meet infrastructure labor needs of the country in the years to come.
The event was the first in a series WEA will be hosting across the country to highlight the policy recommendations outlined in Rebuilding with Purpose: An Affirmative Vision for 21 Yearsst american infrastructure of the century, which the association released last year in partnership with the Brookings Institution. More than 30 policy recommendations from the report were included in the bipartisan report Infrastructure Investment and Employment Act, which President Biden signed into law last year. The legislation will drive historic investments in our country’s roads and bridges, locks and dams, power lines and ports, but the lack of skilled labor will make projects difficult to complete.
Throughout the year, AEM Infrastructure Vision 2050 initiative will partner with employers, workforce development leaders, economic development officials and many others to remind policy makers that the Infrastructure Investment and Employment Act offers an unprecedented opportunity to accelerate momentum around infrastructure careers that pay higher salaries, require short-term qualifications and need a new generation of talent. As millions of workers across the country continue to struggle, federal, state and local leaders must harness funding in ways that expand opportunities for the full diversity of America’s workforce – women and men, unemployed and underemployed, younger and adult students. learners.
Austin Ramirez, CEO of Husco International, Inc. and 2022 President of the EAJ Infrastructure Vision 2050 (IV2050) Task Forcehosted the event and had this to say about the need to develop a strong infrastructure workforce: “The United States is well positioned to rebuild our country’s infrastructure, but this cannot be done without a skilled workforce. As elected officials look to implement the infrastructure bill, the Association of Equipment Manufacturers urges them to harness the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to train the next generation of workers. The Rebuilding with Purpose report can serve as a roadmap for policy makers on how to use funding in ways that expand opportunities for the full diversity of our workforce.
“The main concern of employers today is the availability of labour,” said Stephanie Coleman, Director of Talent Development for the Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce. “The Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce was thrilled to partner with AEM to host a program highlighting the demand for infrastructure labor in our region and, most importantly, drawing attention to the solutions regional workforce that will allow Middle Tennessee to take advantage of federal infrastructure funds while continuing to maintain and build our region’s critical infrastructure.
The first round table was moderated by Joe Kane, Senior Research Associate and Fellow at the Metropolitan Policy Program and focused on the current and future demand for infrastructure workers, as well as the challenges and opportunities that come with hiring, training, and retaining workers. Panelists included Diana Alarcon, director of Nashville’s Department of Transportation and Multimodal Infrastructure; Tim Averkamp, Group President, Materials Solutions and Construction Machinery Solutions of Astec Industries; and Scott Spence, President and CEO of Duck River Electric Membership Corporation.
Tim Averkamp on overcoming the stigma of manufacturing in the past: “WWhat comes to mind is the stigma. What is the stigma of factory work? Growing up, my father worked in a meat processing plant and my mother worked in a factory cutting cushions for furniture. And I think the factories they worked in back then were very different from what they are now, right? Factories today are safe. We have designed many things to make the job much easier. It is very different from what it was 25 years ago.
The second roundtable was moderated by Coleman and explored how state and local actors can expand the reach of infrastructure careers, including avenues for recruiting and training young workers, women, people of color and many other non-traditional job seekers. Panelists included Dr. Michael Torrence, president of Motlow State Community College; Deniece Thomas, Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development Deputy Commission; and Tracee Walls, Managing Director, Equity, Inclusion and Engagement for FedEx Ground.
Dr. Michael Torrence offered some advice for employers who might face obstacles in the hiring process: “When students see where they can go not by a job but by a career ladder, I think that’s really important. Map it out for our students so they can see it, and I don’t mean just on a blank sheet of paper, it’s in 2D. Students want to experience things. So those conversations around the C-suite table, as we create programs for employers, whether it’s AR, VR, AI programming, to distribution centers and financial centers, we make sure our students understand the means of what it will look like when they get there.
Deniece Thomas on what is needed to grow the infrastructure workforce: “Representation really matters. When you walk into an organization and see someone who looks like you, who has similar interests, you feel that sense of connection and human beings want to belong. And so, organizationally, it has to be an environment where people not only feel welcomed, but also valued and there’s an opportunity for me to really spread my proverbial wings.
Click here to view a recording of the event.
During the year 2022, AEM Infrastructure Vision 2050 The initiative will continue to fuel the infrastructure conversation across the country through a series of events that will highlight the policy recommendations outlined in the Rebuilding with Purpose: An Affirmative Vision for 21 Yearsst american infrastructure of the century and the historic opportunity to close the skills gap and expand economic opportunity well beyond the initial launch of the bipartisan infrastructure bill and into the years to come. To learn more about Infrastructure Vision 2050please visit www.iv2050.org or contact AEM Katrina Bishop at [email protected].
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