Critically improving transportation conditions
Making recent headline news around the world, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) provides unprecedented federal funding for infrastructure projects across the US. The bi-partisan bill, which has been years in the making, will deliver $1.2 trillion in federal spending over the next five years across a variety of infrastructure projects from renewable energy to electric vehicle manufacturing.
Along with these sustainable projects, a main focus of the infrastructure funding will be $110 billion towards transportation projects including road and bridge improvements, and $11 billion for transportation safety projects. With 1 in 5 miles of highways and major roads, and 45,000 bridges across the US in poor condition, this funding will support critical projects to improve the condition, safety, and environmental sustainability of America’s transportation network.
Opportunities in Transportation Engineering
Transportation engineering firms across the US met news of the Bill’s signing with excitement, as they have been eagerly waiting funding of this scale for several years. The government investment in roads, bridges, and safety means that funding will finally be available for many projects that have already been awarded to firms, as well as new projects that they will have the opportunity to bid for. However, as firms evaluate their project pipeline ahead, a challenge looms questioning how they will resource these projects with the right talent.
An Increasing Talent Shortage
A Moody's Analytics report found that the infrastructure spending will create more than 800,000 jobs by 2025, many of which will be in the transportation engineering sector. In an industry that is already facing a talent shortage, many firms are concerned attracting and retaining transportation talent to resource the upcoming workload.
“The transportation talent pipeline is currently stretched thin, and the industry is still impacted by the 2008 financial crisis that saw many engineers leave the industry. Today, this has created a talent gap at the 8-12 years of experience range, which is critical talent will be needed to manage the projects funded by government investment.” - Sarah Davis, Senior Consultant at LVI Associates
Skillsets in Demand
The bill has also accelerated the demand for talent with specific skillsets.
“The infrastructure bill includes an increased focus on transportation safety, with the aim of reaching ‘Vision Zero’, meaning zero deaths on US roads. To achieve this, projects will be done in a multimodal approach to include transport safety focus, and talent with a background in transport safety and multimodal experience will be in high demand.” - George Place, Senior Vice President at LVI Associates
Supporting this demand, the Institution of Transportation Engineers (ITE) has already created two new certifications, Road Safety Professional 1 and Road Safety Professional 2, to try to bolster the talent pool with this experience.
Firms are also looking for talent with experience in new technologies like Open Roads and Open Bridges, which allow for 3D Model design. George Place continues, “DOT’s are embracing technical advances in software and talent with this experience is currently in very short supply. Having these technical skills will be massively valuable for transportation engineering professionals going forward.”
Renewed Emphasis on Retention
In addition to securing talent with niche expertise, retention is more important than ever as firms evaluate who will work on the upcoming infrastructure projects over the next five years. What are firms doing to retain their engineers, and attract new talent to their organizations?
According to Sarah Davis, “There is a huge emphasis on retaining younger engineers who can develop into the mid-level category where this is the biggest talent shortage. Additionally, many firms have also already bulked up their PE graduate programs so they have a longer-term pipeline of talent.”
George Place also shares that, “Firms have opened remote work across the whole of state in a project is located. As long as employees hold the local state DOT expertise, firms are allowing flexible working options from anywhere in the state.” With candidates craving more hybrid and flexible options, meeting these needs will be essential for retention.
Compensations will also be a key factor, as firms consider how pay across the sector compares to engineering roles in other sectors. Firms have got creative with compensation options, as well as 401k and PTO benefits, remote work flexibility, and more. While Covid-19 served as an initial catalyst for these initiatives, the passing of the infrastructure bill has heightened their importance.
Advice to Clients and Candidates
The LVI Associates team is already working with a number of clients preparing for the projects that will receive funding over the next several years. George Place advises clients to, “Start preparing now to have the right people in place when the funding is released, and projects are signed off.” He adds, “Everyone is already looking for the same talent, so consider how you will differentiate yourself and communicate a strong employer value proposition.”
The job market has never been stronger for transportation engineers looking to explore new opportunities. Sarah Davis comments, “The shortage of talent will only increase, as firms look to position themselves to deliver new infrastructure projects, and private firms will be willing to pay for the best talent.”
The Road Ahead
As firms react to the infrastructure bill and prepare for the pipeline of work ahead, having the right talent in place now will be critical for future success. For support in securing transportation engineering talent for your team, or to discuss opportunities in the market, get in touch with the LVI Associates team.