“Construction Careers” Gets Boost from Sen. Gillibrand

Last week, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works passed the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21), a nearly $80 billion bill to reauthorize the programs that build and maintain our nation’s streets, bridges, and sidewalks.  The introduction of this legislation was long-awaited.  The current reauthorization expired in 2009 and our nation’s transportation system has been limping along on extensions ever since.

As part of the debate on the bill, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) introduced an amendment to the bill that would create the first-ever construction careers demonstration program at the U.S. Department of Transportation, a provision that could have a major impact for transportation equity.

Quality jobs in the transportation sector can provide a pathway to the middle class.  The Construction Careers Program would connect Americans who have historically been underrepresented in the transportation construction workforce – low-income communities, women, and people of color — to quality apprenticeship training and job opportunities.

This program has been tested and proven in several cities  including in Los Angeles, New York, St. Louis, and Milwaukee.  Its inclusion in the next surface transportation reauthorization will provide people from communities across the nation who desire to contribute to our nation’s economic success with access to critical entry points into quality jobs in the transportation sector.

When she introduced the amendment, Sen. Gillibrand said of the elements of the construction careers program:

“[T]hese are important provisions that I believe could be a real benefit to the legislation, and hope that as this process moves forward we could work to try and include this program in the legislation.”

 

We are grateful to Senator Gillibrand for her leadership on this important issue.  With the introduction of this amendment, the construction careers program has reached a significant milestone.  However, we still have some important hurdles to get this proposal into the final surface transportation authorization.  Next, we would like to see this proposal taken up by other Senate Committees, particularly the Senate Banking Committee, which will reauthorize our transit programs, as well as the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

You can join the more than a dozen organizations who are working to make a Construction Careers program at US DOT a reality.  To find out how you can support of this effort, visit our website or please contact, Chris Brown, PolicyLink at cbrown@policylink.org.

 

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