The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), signed on November 15th, 2021, represents a significant step towards truly modernizing the United States’ aging and increasingly outdated infrastructural system. Consisting of $1.2 trillion and allocating $550 billion in new spending over the next five years, according to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act Summary, the IIJA presents a historic investment in our water, transportation, and energy systems which could mean new and exciting opportunities for Americans and American companies.
The American Society of Civil Engineers spent the last two decades crafting the Report Card for America’s Infrastructure program, on which the US recently received the unfortunate score of a C-. While many might find this to be surprising, it is important to consider that the integrity and reliability of our infrastructure system is something many Americans do not take the time to understand unless it causes a disruption in their lives. Long before current weather changes such as Winter Storm Uri developed life-threatening conditions in Texas, underrepresented populations have been made aware of the dangerous consequences caused by a lack of efficient and modernized infrastructure systems. Famous examples, such as the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, which began back in 2014, have demonstrated that investment in water purifying facilities and properly maintained pipelines are a major necessity for the safety of our communities. Inadequate infrastructure goes far beyond unfinished roads and potholes, and when ignored, can have serious consequences. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act hopes to diminish these hazards and facilitate the creation of a new and fortified foundation for US infrastructure.
In light of new international demand for renewed sustainability practices along with health concerns and anxiety surrounding climate change, the IIJA is also meant to relieve some of the stress by creating paths to long-lasting solutions. The investment in everything from public transit, water infrastructure, and the power grid to more innovative technology such as electric vehicle charging will not only increase the demand for qualified STEM professionals but will also catapult the need for qualified trades workers who can physically get the job done. The power grid alone is set to receive $65 billion in funding and will require a substantially large, diverse, and dedicated team to accomplish what is needed.
Despite the positive future, this bill paints for Americans, it is also destined to reveal a lack of qualified workers to fulfill many much-needed jobs. This is largely due to insufficient funding in education when it comes to energy and trade careers, along with few training opportunities for workers who are already in the industry to improve their skills and move up the ladder. Without proper training, which in many trades jobs can take significantly more time than other jobs, workers will be unable to meet the intense demand that the projects proposed in the IIJA require.
American educators are now faced with a new responsibility. The world is changing, and as a society, it is important to understand that the systems used to help us travel, eat, and drink need to evolve. For this to happen, we need innovative minds contributing to all sectors of our infrastructure. Educating students on the opportunities outside of traditional college degrees such as trades careers for electricians, plumbers, or working in construction is essential to drive new workers into the roles that are essential to our future.
The average student loan debt for a recent college graduate in the United States is around $36,900. High school students or even just people looking for a career change should consider the lucrative opportunities that a bill like the IIJA could open the door to. When researching potential education and training programs, students should make sure to look into those involving the energy sector, water, recycling, etc. They might be surprised to learn the amazing jobs that are available.
Smart Energy Education and the Watt Watchers of Texas are dedicated to bringing you the latest information on all things energy and energy careers. The new Infrastructure and Investment Jobs Act (IIJA) is bound to have a great impact on the energy sector, and we are excited to help share the news on new opportunities. To learn more about trade career opportunities, energy and sustainability, visit us online by following the links above! And don’t forget to follow the Smart Energy Education Facebook page for updates on all our projects, scholarship opportunities, blog posts and more!