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Pennsylvania puts up $400M to address upskilling in construction industry

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Dive Brief:

  • A new executive order, signed Monday by Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro seeks to help infrastructure-building companies manage the skilled trade labor shortage. Shapiro’s order created a job training program that will provide workforce development grants to contractors and other employers building infrastructure projects in the state. 
  • The Commonwealth Workforce Transformation Program will provide up to $40,000 for each newly trained worker to contractors completing work funded by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act or the Inflation Reduction Act. That means 3%, or up to $400 million, of all IIJA and IRA funding in Pennsylvania will fund workforce development and on-the-job training over the next five years.
  • The CWTP can provide companies with grants up to $400,000 per contract or award under the IIJA or IRA. Shapiro, a Democrat, claims the program is the first of its kind in the U.S., that is the largest infusion of workforce funding in the state’s history and that it could create up to 10,000 jobs. 

Dive Insight:

The Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry will manage the CWTP, which can support contractors, unions or other employers working on the state’s infrastructure that need workers. 

And the industry is in dire need of workers. Even as funds from the IIJA role in, helping contractors build a healthy backlog, contractors are still far too understaffed — estimates place the labor demand gap at over half a million workers.

Shapiro believes his executive order will help with that, at least in Pennsylvania.

“The Commonwealth Workforce Transformation Program will help train the next generation of skilled workers in Pennsylvania and break down barriers that shut too many workers out of real opportunity,” Shapiro said. “We’re going to build Pennsylvania’s infrastructure with the best, most highly-trained workforce in the country — and this initiative will be a model for other states to follow.”

Grants would reimburse contractors for wages, payroll taxes or training costs. For example, they could be used for pre-apprenticeship or apprenticeship program costs, fees associated with establishing a new training program or costs incurred for using a training facility. 

Employers can also receive reimbursements for supportive services helping individuals facing systemic barriers to employment. These can include housing, child care, tools, clothing, educational testing or transportation.

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