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Austin mayor announces new infrastructure academy to build construction workforce



Austin mayor announces new infrastructure academy to build construction workforce

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin Mayor Kirk Watson announced Wednesday plans for a new infrastructure academy to help build a local pipeline of workers for major construction and transportation projects in the region.

It’s tied to an agenda item that the city council will take up March 7.

“Austin, Texas is at a moment. It’s a moment that we ought to seize.”

Kirk Watson

According to the resolution, the Austin Infrastructure Academy would be a “one-of-a-kind public-private infrastructure network that integrates recruitment, a comprehensive training hub, childcare support, and placement services to connect local people to career pathways in infrastructure development.”

The academy will do things like:

  • align training programs with in-demand skills
  • offer childcare and other wraparound services to eliminate participation barriers
  • facilitate the matching of trained job seekers with job creators

The mayor told KXAN the goal is to build a physical building for people to go to and get these services. He said it’ll be funded in a variety of ways.

“Set aside funding from the different projects that are being done,” Watson said. “Federal funding, the bipartisan infrastructure bill specifically looks to workforce development and how local communities go about workforce development.”

Watson said the resolution will direct the city manager to begin the process of putting all this together.

“It’s more than just building a tarmac. We can talk about building families as we build infrastructure.”

Kirk Watson

Workforce Solutions Capital Area is one of the organizations working with the mayor on this initiative. Chief Executive Officer Tamara Atkinson said this would be the first academy of its kind in the country.

“What we’re recognizing through this infrastructure academy and the Mayor’s vision for it is we have an opportunity to grow our own workforce to meet these really ambitious infrastructure projects,” said Atkinson.

Atkinson said this is the second largest industry sector in Austin.

“Currently, we’re at about 43,000 workers in general construction,” Atkinson said. .”We’re gonna bloom to over 94,000 workers, so a 120% increase over the next 20 years.”

Ultimately, this is meant to help people access better paying jobs and create lasting careers in this field.

“It’s really at its core about how Austin can address affordability,” Atkinson said. “We want to help workers have the skills that are in demand so they can support themselves and their families.”

The need for workers

The mayor said there are a number of large infrastructure projects that need thousands of workers.

“About $25 billion worth of infrastructure projects,” Watson said. “Everything from expanding the airport, Project Connect, the Light Rail to I-35. The challenge is we don’t have enough workforce to do that.”

Watson said the city is going to need to grow its construction workforce capacity by 81% through 2040.

“We need about 10,000 workers a year doing this sort of work,” Watson said. “Which means we need to increase our training and upskill folks by about 4,000 people a year.”

Skillpoint Alliance is another organization partnering with the mayor on the academy. The nonprofit provides workforce training.

Kevin Brackmeyer is their chief executive officer. Brackmeyer said this is going to be a game changer.

“It isn’t just about job creation. It’s about career creation.”

Kevin Brackmeyer

There’s a high demand for this kind of resource, according to Brackmeyer.

“We currently have a pretty extensive waitlist for our skilled trades programs,” Brackmeyer. “It’s going to allow us to scale and train even more individuals.”

Brackmeyer said this will help to not just create a pipeline, but help establish a continuous flow of talent.

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