The Infrastructure and Jobs Act: What’s in It for Postsecondary Education?

Postsecondary & Workforce

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On Nov. 15, President Joe Biden signed the Infrastructure and Jobs Act into law, which will bring $1.2 trillion over 10 years to infrastructure and related workforce development. The substance of the law has shifted from the original proposal outlined in the President’s Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, and before that the American Jobs Plan.

Despite the shift, there are numerous connections between education, workforce development and infrastructure investments in the law. Some of the original provisions are included in the Build Back Better Act, which passed the House on Nov. 19. Of the $1.2 trillion appropriated through the Infrastructure and Jobs Act, $95 million is allocated to train workers in specific industries. The job training funds focus on five areas:

    • $10.3 million to train bus drivers on the operation of zero emission vehicles.
    • $40 million to train energy auditors.
    • $10 million to train engineers, architects and technicians.
    • $10 million to train workers to install energy efficient technology.
    • $25 million to train workers in the water and wastewater sector.

While the funds are not specifically targeted to go to postsecondary institutions, there are some notable connections made between training funds and postsecondary and technical education systems. Specifically, the federal law acknowledges community and technical colleges as possible providers that could support programs that train engineers, architects and technicians and provide those learners with certifications.

Our April 2021 blog post on Ed Note outlined some considerations for state policymakers based on our review of postsecondary implications in the American Jobs Plan. Regardless of the many changes made to the legislation, the considerations still resonate with the opportunities afforded to states, including to:

    • Identify education and workforce needs for occupations in fields of infrastructure expansion.
    • Analyze data and identify people and regions with the greatest needs.
    • Evaluate and identify short-term, medium-term, and long-term education and training needs for people in transition.
    • Explore nondegree credentials and training programs for specific fields; consider the need for education and training at postsecondary institutions.
    • Identify and engage stakeholders across agencies and sectors that can support education and training programs.
    • Identify and leverage existing state and federal workforce education and training funding streams that support relevant education and training programs.

These considerations are not only relevant to the federal investments made through the Infrastructure and Jobs Act, they also hold relevance to some of the existing provisions in the Build Back Better Act  working its way through Congress. As states consider ways to maximize federal investments, there are opportunities to leverage existing education and training programs to ensure people have clear paths to build skills that will support infrastructure improvements and technological advancements taking place in their state.

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Senior Policy Analyst at Education Commission of the States | tkeily@ecs.org

As a senior policy analyst, Tom contributes to the work of the policy team on issues across the education spectrum. Prior to joining Education Commission of the States, Tom taught middle school in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Tom is dedicated to providing state policymakers with quality research that supports them in making a positive impact on students' lives.

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Assistant Director at Education Commission of the States | landerson@ecs.org

In her role, Lexi oversees project management for Education Commission of the States' policy work. Lexi has more than 10 years of experience working as a higher education administrator and policy analyst, with the past five years focused on postsecondary transition policies. When Lexi is not immersed in the education policy world, she can be found running, skiing or exploring with her toddler in the mountains.

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