C+S November 2022 Vol. 8 Issue 11

Last November, Congress passed President Biden’s Bipartisan Infra - structure Law (BIL), which will provide $1.2 trillion dollars of federal funds to rebuild America’s roads, bridges, rails, airports, and other critical elements of our infrastructure. This summer, Americans began to see the direct impact of BIL when Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced an award of nearly $1 billion to 85 airports, from Pittsburgh to Orlando to Dexter, Maine, to modernize existing terminals and build new ones. These grants also will be used to provide greater accessibility to people with disabilities when travelling by air. Over the long run, BIL will help make America more competitive with other countries who have invested in modernizing their trans- portation systems for decades. BIL also will invest in underserved communities that have too often been left behind, or even harmed by past infrastructure developments such as highways that bifurcate inner-city neighborhoods. But the road ahead faces a critical challenge: the US has a shortage of nearly one million engineers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statis - tics. This shortage is more than a speed bump and could seriously slow the progress that BIL funding will make possible, resulting in project delays and cancellations, among other negative impacts. Many factors have contributed to the engineer shortage, from early retirements taken during the pandemic, fewer students entering college and too few majoring in engineering. For the infrastructure industry, the shift from civil engineering careers to software engineering has led to some engineering graduates choosing to work for Internet, social media and crypto companies. With the aging of the US workforce, still more experienced engineers will retire over the next 5-10 years. Another major factor is that the US engineering workforce is still heav- ily white male, because for decades, engineering firms did not recruit enough women or minorities. Women now make up about 15.9 percent of engineers, and far fewer, only about 3.3 percent, are racial and ethnic minorities. Only 25 percent of civil engineering graduates are women, while people of color make up only 20 percent. My company, WSP USA, with more than 15,500 US employees, de - signs major projects in the transportation, buildings, energy, water, and environment markets. The engineer shortage is front and center to us. We believe that infrastructure industry companies, working collabora - tively with government and academia, must focus on specific actions to tackle the current engineer shortage: Solving the Labor Shortage to Support Infrastructure Progress By Lewis P. Cornell, PE

Gerald Desmond Bridge, Port of Long Beach

Attract more women and people of color to engineering careers: Our industry must target a much younger demographic with a focus on women and people of color to introduce them to engineering and expose them to the field in age-appropriate ways. We also need to build talent pipelines directly from disadvantaged communities to infrastructure jobs. To help achieve this goal, we have encouraged our senior executives to take leadership roles in the industry associations that drive programs to make diversity among the highest industry priorities. I am particularly proud of four of our own WSP women and minority leaders who serve in top positions at influential organizations such as Women’s Trans - portation Seminar (WTS), Conference of Minority Transportation Of - ficials, Latinos in Transit, American Public Transportation Association (APTA), and American Road and Transportation Builders Association. These groups are building programs with public transportation agen- cies and private companies to implement best practices such as mentor- ing and leadership development for emerging professionals. APTA and WTS, for example, have successful initiatives partnering with HBCUs, the National Society of Black Engineers and Airport Advisory Minor - ity Council to attract new talent. Moreover, engineering companies like mine are collaborating with our disadvantaged and minority business partners, often small engineering firms, to develop strategies to attract minority talent. Attract Future Engineers through Scholarships and Industry Contacts: The American Public Transportation Foundation, funded by the industry, provides scholarships to financially needy college stu - dents studying engineering and related STEM topics across the nation. Equally important, it connects the scholars to industry professionals who mentor them and provide on-site experiences at their companies. With more than $1.5 million provided to date, each year the Founda - tion is increasing the number of scholars who receive funding. Showcase the “Purpose” of Engineering to Future Engineers: While some graduating engineers may want to work in social media, video games, or crypto currencies because of the glamour and pay



November 2022

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