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Infrastructure plan highlights shortage of skilled workers

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President Joe Biden speaks at a virtual meeting of the Munich Security Conference.

President Joe Biden's infrastructure plan would make roughly a trillion dollars available to repair roads, bridges and other systems. Anna Moneymaker/Pool/Getty Images

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There is still a lot of political wrangling and foot stamping and behind-closed-doors negotiation to go before the bipartisan infrastructure deal President Joe Biden announced last week becomes law. Assuming it does, roughly a trillion dollars in federal money will flow out to states and localities to fix and build new roads, bridges, water and power systems, airports, broadband internet … the list goes on.

All of which means more jobs for skilled and semi-skilled Americans to fill. Biden promises “millions of good-paying” new infrastructure jobs. 

Not quite as many jobs as in the president’s original, more expansive proposals, said Columbia Law School professor and former Treasury official Michael Graetz, but still, “it’s a very, very large package compared to what we’re used to.”

And it comes at a crucial moment, said Manny Rodriguez at Revolution Workshop in Chicago, with millions of skilled blue-collar workers — many of them older white men — close to retirement.

“There’s going to be enough money for a generation worth of projects in all the different trades, from laborers to carpenters to ironworkers, road builders, heavy-equipment operators, the list goes on,” he said.

Rodriguez’s organization trains minority workers for construction jobs. 

“And we gotta make sure that Black, brown and women have clear access to these family-sustaining career pathways,” he said, adding that there needs to be money for workforce training and education in the infrastructure mix. 

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