AUSTIN (KXAN) — Findings from Austin’s first mobility and infrastructure workforce study released Thursday will help guide the Central Texas area as it gears up for a slew of large-scale mobility projects in development and on the horizon.
Over the next two decades, the study found the Austin metro area will increase jobs within the mobility and infrastructure sectors by nearly 97,000 positions, up 39%. However, when factoring in major projects in development — including the Project Connect light rail system, the Interstate 35 project near downtown and the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport expansion — that job creation jumps 81% to 181,000 new jobs, said Tamara Atkinson, CEO of Workforce Solutions Capital Area.
“Those are eye-popping numbers,” she said. “We can come together as a community to build talent pipelines, so that everyone in Austin has access to these jobs.”
The study outlined some areas the region needs to get more competitive to help attract strong and diverse talent.
One of the areas noted in the study centered on improving prevailing wage policies. That will help attract and retain Austin’s workforce, particularly in areas like general construction and skilled trades.
Currently, the study found women hold about 6% of general construction job roles and 15% of skilled trade roles. Efforts to increase the share of women in those sectors are noted as a high priority, and were echoed by Atkinson.
“In order for us to close talent gaps in the future, we really need to invite and encourage women to be part of this industry,” she said.
There were also recommendations to help making program training more consistent and standardized across the board. The study found training periods range significantly from six weeks to upwards of two years, with more consistency needed.
“There are many good training programs happening here that are producing approximately 3,000 skilled workers every year in this industry — however, we know we’re going to need, in total, 10,000 workers a year to fill the gap,” she said. “So what does that mean for Workforce Solutions? It means we really need to roll up our sleeves along with our local elected leaders and our community leaders, including Austin Transit Partnership and CapMetro, and get to work on scaling programs that work.”
The study also emphasized the critical nature of consistency in recruitment efforts, particularly in school visits and community partnerships to help aid program growth and diversification.
That’s an area where Atkinson said she saw great opportunity to improve navigation, making it easier for employers to find prospective workers and interested applicants in finding available training opportunities.
Some preliminary recommendations including broadening the talent pipeline in the Austin metro by really honing in on and deploying “reimagined recruitment efforts.” There were also suggestions for more harmony within the realm of work contracts, job requirements, training experience and support services.
Suggestions also included identifying federal and state funding opportunities to help streamline, support and build up sustainable training efforts.
“I think as a community, we need to look at ways we can pull down federal funding to be able to support and grow training programs here,” Atkinson said. “There’s an opportunity if we choose to.”