In 2021, even before the passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), and the Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors Act (CHIPS), some 95 infrastructure occupations employed over 16 million workers. Both Moody’s and the Economic Policy Institute have projected that BIL funding alone could add up to 800,000 jobs annually over the next decade, some 13,000 to 30,000 jobs for each billion in infrastructure spending. The White House has claimed that the IRA and CHIPS will add several hundreds of thousands more jobs through 2035 and beyond.
Where will this new workforce come from? How will state and local governments ensure the availability of the workforce they need, especially by 2025, when the demand for infrastructure workforce may peak — and stay at that level for the balance of the decade?
Within the $1.2 trillion in new spending in the BIL, IRA, and CHIPS acts is $1 billion in dedicated investments in workforce development to serve critical infrastructure, climate and manufacturing areas, including transportation, broadband, energy and environment, and scientific research and semiconductors. Some of these funds are allocated specifically toward workforce development, such as the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Auditor Training Grant or the U.S. Department of Labor’s Building Pathways for Infrastructure Jobs Program, while others allow state and local government recipients to re-allocate a portion of program funding to workforce challenges. These include, for example, U.S. Department of Transportation Highway Formula Funds, the U.S. Department of Commerce Digital Equity Act and Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) funds, and the U.S. EPA’s Brownfields program.
The CHIPS Act workforce funding is directed to colleges, universities, consortia of higher education, non-profits, state research organizations, and commercial entities. This provides opportunities for state and local governments to collaborate with these public and private entities to gain access to these funds for community investments.
The White House has identified in its report entitled Advancing Equitable Workforce Development for Infrastructure Jobs1 some 51 programs in the BIL that are either workforce specific or allow formula and competitive grant funding to support workforce development efforts. There are another 16 programs under the IRA that either specifically or indirectly tie IRA funding to workforce development.
Here are several formula and grant programs and related funding under the BIL, IRA, CHIPS, and existing U.S. Department of Labor workforce programs that can be leveraged by state and local governments — directly or indirectly — for workforce development.
Building Pathways for Infrastructure Jobs Grant Program
The purpose of the U.S. Department of Labor Building Pathways for Infrastructure Jobs Grant Program2 is to fund public-private partnerships to develop and strengthen evidence-based training models in so-called “H-1B industries and occupations” critical to meeting the goals of the BIL and to maximize the impact of these investments. H1-B workers include, for example, engineers, architects, IT, and other skilled workers that are key to supporting renewable energy, transportation, and broadband infrastructure sectors. This program is intended to serve those infrastructure sectors and targets unemployed and underemployed workers, including those in underserved urban and rural areas. Applications for the initial FY 2023 round of applications closed on July 7, 2023, but the Department of Labor’s NOFO3 states that DOL will undertake multiple rounds of funding from its $200 million appropriation with a second round opening on March 15, 2024, and closing on June 16, 2024.
Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD)
The BEAD4 program provides $4.16 billion in funding for broadband planning, mapping, deployment, and adoption projects. Priority broadband projects will focus on unserved and underserved areas, and key community locations. While the primary purpose of the BEAD program is to plan for and build out broadband infrastructure, workforce training, and development are eligible uses of these grants. The BEAD NOFO5 requires that grantees first have a plan to cover unserved and underserved areas before using funds for other eligible uses such as affordability programs, cybersecurity training, and workforce development. Every state will receive a minimum allocation of $100 million with the remaining funds distributed based on BIL formulas that target high-cost and unserved areas.
Surface Transportation Programs
The BIL now allows states to obligate funds from four programs in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act)6 toward workforce development, including registered apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs. The BIL also expands the allowable uses of FAST Act funds to include activities that address workforce gaps and assist in developing the surface transportation workforce. The BIL allows the allocation of FAST Act funding for workforce development under the following programs:
Energy Auditor Training Grant Program
The Energy Auditor Training Grant Program7 provides grants to states to train individuals to conduct energy audits or commercial and residential building surveys to build a clean energy workforce with the goal of reducing consumer energy costs and pollution from building energy use. Funds can be used to cover state costs (or a state-certified third-party training program) associated with training or certifying workers to conduct energy audits or to pay a trainee during the period in which the trainee is training to be certified. This is a $40 million competitive grant program that state energy offices can apply for through 2026 or until funding is expended and has a maximum grant of $2 million.
Environmental and Climate Justice Block Grant Program
The Environmental and Climate Justice Block Grant Program8 established under the IRA, provides funding for financial and technical assistance to carry out environmental and climate justice activities to benefit disadvantaged communities. Eligible activities include community-led air and other pollution monitoring, prevention, and remediation, and investments in low- and zero-emission and resilient technologies, related infrastructure and workforce development that help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other air pollutants.
Regional Technology and Innovation Hubs (Tech Hubs)
The Tech Hubs program9 is an economic development initiative designed to enhance U.S. economic security through investments in regional technology and innovation-based consortia. It is a two-phased competitive grant comprised of funding both strategy and implementation grants. The goal is to invest directly in regions with the assets, resources, and potential to grow into globally competitive innovation centers in approximately 10 years while increasing employment at all skill levels, and equitably. Congress appropriated $10 billion for the program over five years. The U.S. Economic Development Association (EDA) plans to initially award $15 million in strategy development grants to some 20 initial applicants. The EDA NOFO10 requires applicants to be consortia in order to encourage new collaborations among local, State, Tribal, and federal government entities, institutions of higher education, the private sector, economic development organizations, labor organizations, nonprofit organizations, and community organizations that promote broad-based regional innovation initiatives. Eligible uses of these competitive grants include workforce strategy and development.
The funds embedded within the BIL, IRA, and CHIPS acts for workforce development will only be as useful to state and local government if they are leveraged strategically as part of a comprehensive workforce plan. Doing so includes:
Guidehouse is a leader in federal grants strategy, management, and compliance activities for state and local governments. With more than 65 state and local grants strategy/management clients around the country, we bring skilled experts and technology solutions that help state and local governments optimize their use of federal funds.
We understand federal funding — Guidehouse has the experience, resources, and technology to interpret and help prioritize and manage this influx of federal funds, as well as leveraging them with other state and federal funds to maximize impact and meet federal matching requirements. We work with clients to ensure that benefits from funding sources are maximized, tapping funding streams in an order of applicability from state-specific and federal targeted programs (ARPA, BIL, IRA, CHIPS) to mixed-use funds (capital projects and Broadband Equity and Deployment) to funds of general applicability (State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds, and general funds).
We advise on the strategic opportunities around infrastructure investment and creating the net-zero economy — Our team has worked with a number of state and local governments and energy providers on developing strategies to secure first-mover advantage in the net-zero economy. Whether it is around vehicle electrification, renewable energy, or hydrogen, our team members are experts at macroeconomic and industrial strategy, and private sector development, advising dozens of clients on how to build out the ecosystem of infrastructure, institutions, and talent that will be the economic hubs of the net-zero economy. Guidehouse can help state and local governments take advantage of the most impactful opportunities for energy, climate, and local infrastructure in generations.
We design, implement, and operate grants management programs —Our team has extensive experience with grants management, from the design of technology-based portals to the review of all grant requirements in accordance with the Federal Uniform Guidance, 2 CFR Part 200, as well as all program requirements and guidance issued by federal agencies. We fully understand and support monitoring, reporting, and compliance requirements. We have performed these services for more than 65 state and local governments relative to numerous federal funding sources, including all COVID-19-related response, recovery, and rebuilding legislation. Guidehouse has a team of professionals nationwide who form our Community Building and Investment Center of Excellence, which closely monitors federal legislation to track and analyze each release of regulations and guidance.
We engage with clients to create government efficiency — We help our clients develop and execute transformations and shared services models that improve operations and customer service. Guidehouse teams have the skills to formulate strategies, conduct feasibility studies, develop business cases, evaluate operational models, design improved organizations, and manage program effectiveness. Our team of experts, work with our clients to implement organizational change management and technology enablement. We believe successful change, whether it is a change in procedure or a full system implementation, starts with your team and stakeholders.
We engage with clients locally and with key stakeholders and communities — The successful pursuit and implementation of large federal grants are often tied to community understanding and support. Many of the funding opportunities offered by the IRA involve impactful investments in our nation to address long-standing and urgent climate, energy, and local infrastructure needs, including for disadvantaged communities. Guidehouse works locally with our clients to create a winning strategy and engages with the local community to ensure successful grant pursuits and post-award implementation.
This article was co-authored by Raquel Malmberg, Lydia Vollmann, and Sarah de Wolf.
1. “ADVANCING EQUITABLE WORKFORCE DEVELOPMENT for INFRASTRUCTURE JOBS a GUIDE to SELECTED FEDERAL RESOURCES.” 2022. https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/Advancing-Equitable-Workforce-Development-for-Infrastructure-Jobs_110122.pdf.
2. Review of DOL BUILDING PATHWAYS to INFRASTRUCTURE JOBS GRANT PROGRAM. 2023. U.S. DEPARTMENT of LABOR. July 27, 2023. https://www.dol.gov/sites/dolgov/files/general/grants/InfrastructureFOAOutreachFactSheet.pdf.
3. “NOTICE of AVAILABILITY of FUNDS and FUNDING OPPORTUNITY ANNOUNCEMENT FOR: DOL Building Pathways to Infrastructure Jobs Grant Program ANNOUNCEMENT TYPE: Initial FUNDING OPPORTUNITY NUMBER: FOA-ETA-23-31 CATALOG of FEDERAL DOMESTIC ASSISTANCE (CFDA) NUMBER: 17.268.” n.d. https://www.dol.gov/sites/dolgov/files/ETA/grants/Building%20Pathways%20to%20Infrastructure%20Jobs_FOA-ETA-23-31.pdf.
4. “Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program | Internet for All.” n.d. www.internetforall.gov. Accessed July 27, 2023. https://www.internetforall.gov/program/broadband-equity-access-and-deployment-bead-program.
5. “Notice of Funding Opportunity -1 NOTICE of FUNDING OPPORTUNITY BROADBAND EQUITY, ACCESS, and DEPLOYMENT PROGRAM EXECUTIVE SUMMARY A. Federal Agency Name.” n.d. https://broadbandusa.ntia.doc.gov/sites/default/files/2022-05/BEAD%20NOFO.pdf.
6. “Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act or the FAST Act - FHWA | Federal Highway Administration.” n.d. www.fhwa.dot.gov. https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/fastact/.
7. “Energy Auditor Training Grant Program.” n.d. Energy.gov. https://www.energy.gov/scep/energy-auditor-training-grant-program.
8. US EPA, OA. 2023. “Inflation Reduction Act Environmental and Climate Justice Program.” www.epa.gov. February 8, 2023. https://www.epa.gov/inflation-reduction-act/inflation-reduction-act-environmental-and-climate-justice-program.
9. “Regional Technology and Innovation Hubs (Tech Hubs).” n.d. U.S. Economic Development Administration. https://www.eda.gov/funding/programs/regional-technology-and-innovation-hubs.
10. “Regional Technology and Innovation Hubs (Tech Hubs).” n.d. U.S. Economic Development Administration. Accessed July 27, 2023. https://www.eda.gov/funding/programs/regional-technology-and-innovation-hubs#.
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