Creating Equitable Access to Quality Construction Jobs
Project on Workforce Summer Fellows Tanya Budler and Marlee Stark review best practices in local hire provisions, project labor agreements, and workforce development programs in the U.S. construction industry.
The views expressed in this report are the sole responsibility of the authors and are not meant to represent the views of the Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard University, or the United States Department of Transportation.
A once-in-a-generation investment, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act highlights the importance of good paying jobs as a key to creating a sustainable and equitable economy. In support of the Biden administration’s efforts, the US Department of Transportation (US DOT) has asserted its commitment to creating good-paying jobs with free and fair choice to join a union as well as promoting and encouraging gender and racial diversity in the infrastructure workforce.
The US DOT commissioned the creation of this guide to highlight best practices and therefore inspire and guide entities across the country to join in this work. In conversation with the selected promising programs, it became apparent that there are three dimensions to effective construction workforce programs. These dimensions drive efficacy—when used in isolation or in conjunction—and are critical for new programs to include when creating construction workforce programs.
These dimensions include (1) utilizing local hire provisions, (2) implementing project labor agreements, and (3) bolstering workforce development programs. The utilization and combination of these dimensions vary greatly between cities, counties, states, and regions. Though there is no rule book on which dimension—or combination of dimensions— works best in a particular location, our research found that the presence of unions, a robust workforce development ecosystem, and willing and able civic leaders can successfully impact the creation and sustainability of quality construction jobs.
This review provides seven best practice case studies from around the United States: Los Angeles, California; Louisville, Kentucky; New York, New York; San Diego, California; San Francisco, California; St. Louis, Missouri; and Syracuse, New York. Each of these programs employs one or more of the aforementioned dimensions, exemplifying how government-funded transportation infrastructure projects can positively impact local economies through the creation of quality jobs.