This article originally appeared on Medium
Supportive services can eliminate barriers to joining the workforce, playing an important role in promoting equity and diversifying the U.S. construction workforce, which has traditionally been largely white and male. Under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), 22 competitive grant programs from the Department of Transportation (USDOT) allow federal dollars to support jobs on the project, including funding for supportive services — like childcare, commuting costs, and other living and work expenses.
BIL applicants must include a relevant line item in their budget proposal to use funds for workforce development. Applicants can use the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Grant Application Checklist for a Strong Transportation Workforce and Labor Plan that includes background on eligible supportive services.
Below are examples of supportive services that can be funded under the 22 eligible BIL programs:
Commuting support for workers, including vouchers for public transportation, gasoline assistance, or carpool systems. Low-income workers tend to spend a higher proportion of their salary on fixed costs like transportation, underscoring the potential impact of this support. Results for America’s Economic Mobility Catalog cites transportation support as an evidence-based strategy to advance job placement among disadvantaged communities.
- The Newark/Essex Construction Careers Consortium Pre-Apprenticeship Training Program provided trainees with between $50 and $100 per week to cover transportation costs and related expenses.
- Project Jumpstart, a construction training program for low-income residents in Baltimore, MD, partnered with the non-profit Vehicles for Change to provide used cars to students.
- New America suggests the following strategies to address transportation barriers for workers:
— Developing carpool systems so that multiple participants can share the same car and costs;
— Providing a fleet of buses or vans at set locations to shuttle workers to job sites; and
— Adopting flexible training formats to minimize the need to commute, such as hybrid/blended formats of training.
Childcare support for parents and guardians. These responsibilities tend to fall disproportionately on women, meaning that additional support can address gender disparities in the construction workforce. Additionally, construction jobs tend to require unique working hours (like early mornings) before child care centers tend to open, which can make maintaining this kind of job a challenge.
- The State of Oregon’s Apprentice-Related Child Care (ARCC) program provides up to $2,500 per child per month for participants in the state apprenticeship program for construction workers.
- Building Futures in Providence, RI forged a partnership with local child care providers to create prioritized slots for construction workers.
- The Center for American Progress recommends several strategies to expand childcare support under BIL projects:
— Develop “navigators” to connect infrastructure workers with available child care options.
— Provide direct cash assistance for the BIL workforce to fund child care.
— Partner with childcare providers to secure designated slots that are aligned with the needs of the infrastructure workforce.
Living and Work Expenses like clothing, living stipends, tools and other on-the-job necessities.
- The State of Oregon’s Heavy Highway Apprenticeship Program provides a $500 stipend to purchase tools and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and also provides a meal and lodging stipend for those required to travel over 60 miles for a project.
- Building Futures in Providence, RI provides a stipend during training to support living expenses.
- Building Works in New York City gives a $100 voucher to trainees for work-appropriate clothing.