Two years of pro-worker progress create jobs; SMART members directly benefit from new work opportunities

On Nov. 15, 2021, after years of political pressure from SMART and fellow unions, President Joe Biden signed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), now known as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which will invest more than $1 trillion in our nation’s crumbling infrastructure. The law promises to create good union jobs and put SMART members into action, improving indoor air quality in schools and commercial and residential buildings.

The International Training Institute (ITI), National Energy Management Institute Committee (NEMIC) and Sheet Metal Occupational Health Institute Trust (SMOHIT) will all benefit from the passage of this legislation, as the law will bolster the need for training more SMART members.

The law promises to create good union jobs and put SMART members into action, improving indoor air quality in schools and commercial and residential buildings.

Specific parts of the legislation will directly impact the SMART workforce. Below are some of the highlights of the law and where growth is anticipated over the next five years:

Energy efficiency in public schools

Under the law, the Department of Energy (DOE) will have $500 million to run a competitive grant program for public schools to make energy efficiency improvements. This program aims to improve indoor air quality and make repairs or renovations that directly reduce energy costs on school grounds.

In addition, states have been allocated funds to enhance energy security, advance energy initiatives and maximize the benefits of energy efficiency. Through additional grant programs, states are encouraged to establish initiatives to conduct commercial or residential energy audits or upgrades and retrofits.

Efficient building envelopes, testing, adjusting and balancing (TAB) and indoor air quality will be instrumental in retrofitting school buildings and new construction projects.

TAB technicians and supervisors needed

The Energy Auditor Grant Training Program will provide funding — up to $2 million per state — to train individuals to conduct audits or surveys on commercial and residential buildings. Training centers that do not already offer TAB should look to pair up with their state to apply for these grants or contact the ITI for assistance.

Opportunities to change local building codes

A total of $225 million has been designated for a competitive grant program within the Building Technologies Office to enable sustained, cost-effective implementation of updated building energy codes. This funding is designed to be distributed over five years, averaging $45 million per year.

These grants are available to states and tribal governments — either alone or in partnership with local building code agencies, codes and standards developers, relevant professional organizations, local and utility energy efficiency programs or consumer advocates. The overarching goal is to help understaffed and underfunded local governments upgrade their building codes to the most up-to-date energy efficiency standards.

New markets and emerging technologies

Building information modeling (BIM) will be more important than ever. Experts are predicting that connected construction technologies like BIM will drive the construction industry in the future. A larger integration of modularization and prefabrication in the design and build process is at the forefront.

The law will open new markets for SMART members and present new challenges in the training and deployment of those members. Over the next five years, we will all need to work together to press for funding for our registered apprenticeship programs.

We have a substantial opportunity to change and update building codes at the local, state and national levels. And we have a once-in-a-generation chance to put more members to work.

Safety is paramount

When the initial hiring begins, a labor shortage is anticipated. One of the main concerns with filling a large labor gap is doing so in a safe manner. SMOHIT and the ITI have created training and have the resources needed for work to be completed correctly and safely.

Moody’s Analytics, an economic research company, projects that the law’s peak labor force impact will occur in the fourth quarter of 2025, when there will be 872,000 more jobs as a result of the law. Of those jobs, about 461,000 are expected to be in construction; 227,000 in manufacturing; 75,000 in transportation and distribution; 35,000 in government; and 73,000 in other industries.

Apprenticeships will be more important than ever as the law is implemented. While we have the tools to train the next generation of sheet metal workers, we need the companion Build Back Better legislation to provide more funding for training. If you haven’t done so already, contact your senators and tell them to pass the Build Back Better Act.

It is time to get to work rebuilding America’s infrastructure.

Dayton Power & Light announced Monday, March 20, that it will shut down two coal-fired power plants in southern Ohio next year. An estimated 490 people will lose their jobs once the plants close, not to mention the jobs that will be lost in other coal-related industries as a result.
The plants sit at the heart of a region Trump vowed to revitalize with more jobs and greater economic security during his 2016 campaign. As part of his pledge to reinvigorate the area, Trump also said he would “bring back coal” jobs.
Click here to read more from CBS News.

The transportation sector gained 3,500 jobs in September as the national unemployment remained steady at 5.1 percent, according to statistics released by the Department of Labor on Friday.

The Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) said there were 4,797,800 jobs in transportation in September, compared to 4,794,300 in August. 

 Read more from The Hill.

Read the full September jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics here.

Harrisburg – Governor Tom Corbett announced today that 39 rail freight improvement projects that will help sustain nearly 34,000 jobs across Pennsylvania were approved for funding from two PennDOT-managed programs.

“Transportation is a proven economic driver and these investments will help these companies maintain and create more jobs,’’ Gov. Corbett said. “Ensuring that these facilities and assets are ready to meet consumer demands is vital to keeping our state competitive.”

The State Transportation Commission (STC) voted Thursday to approve nearly $35.9 million for 13 projects through the Rail Transportation Assistance Program (RTAP) and 26 projects through the Rail Freight Assistance Program (RFAP). RTAP is a capital budget grant program funded with bonds and RFAP is underwritten through the new Multimodal Fund, created by Act 89.

“We have continued investments in Pennsylvania’s rail network because it helps keep our transportation assets strong as a whole,” Gov. Corbett said. “Since January 2011 we’ve invested over $167 million in rail and Act 89 will help us continue those efforts.”

Last November, Corbett signed Act 89, a far-reaching transportation program that clears the way for significant investments in all transportation modes.

For more information, visit www.dot.state.pa.us.

In late June, 21 high school girls convened in Washington, D.C. to participate in WTS International and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) annual D.C. Youth Summit. Participants met with senior federal transportation officials and toured some of the capitol’s transportation facilities. The event is offered as part of Transportation YOU, a mentorship program created by WTS and USDOT that aims to build awareness of transportation-related careers to girls between the ages of 13 and 18.

Launched in 2011, Transportation YOU involves connecting women who have successful careers in transportation fields with girls who have an interest in obtaining engineering- or transportation-related degrees. WTS members recruit Transportation YOU participants by using their connections with school districts officials, teachers, Girl Scouts and local Boys and Girls Club chapters.

Read the complete story at Progressive Railroading.

special_bus_150pxWASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced today that its waiver program that helps experienced veterans and active duty personnel transition into civilian jobs as commercial truck and bus drivers has been expanded to all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

“Our nation’s veterans deserve good-paying jobs when they return home from serving overseas and we are proud to help,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “Thousands of active duty service members and veterans have already transferred their skills to jobs driving trucks and buses through the Military Skills Test Waiver Program and we look forward to helping even more now that we’ve expanded to all 50 states.”

On June 27, 2014, Alaska became the 50th state to participate in the FMCSA Military Skills Test Waiver Program. Begun in 2011, the Program grants state licensing agencies, including the District of Columbia, the authority to waive the skills test portion of the commercial driver’s license application for active duty or recently separated veterans who possess at least two years of safe driving experience operating a military truck or bus. Waiving the skills test expedites the civilian commercial drivers licensing application process and reduces expenses for qualified individuals and operating costs to state licensing agencies.

The effort is part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s and Dr. Jill Biden’s Joining Forces initiative to promote expanded employment and career development opportunities for veterans and military spouses.

The July 25 announcement also includes two additional expansions of the program.

First, the eligibility period for qualified individuals to obtain an FMCSA Military Skills Test Waiver has been extended from 90 days to one year, nationwide.

Second, commencing with Virginia residents, returning military service personnel who possess a state-issued Skill Performance Evaluation (SPE) certificate due to a limb impairment will automatically be recognized as equivalent to an FMCSA-issued SPE certificate and allowed to obtain an interstate commercial driver’s license (CDL). FMCSA encourages other state licensing agencies to establish comparable equivalency SPE programs.

“Commercial drivers fulfill a vital role ensuring that America’s economy continually moves forward,” said Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrator Anne S. Ferro. “Service members who have clocked countless miles safely working behind the wheel of a military vehicle will now have more time and opportunity to find long-term employment in the commercial driving industry. Reducing the burden of finding civilian jobs is one of the best ways we can thank members of our military and their families for their service to our nation.”

From 2010 to 2020, the need for heavy-vehicle drivers is expected to grow by more than 17 percent – faster than the national average for other occupations.

To date, more than 6,000 current and former military personnel – including Reserves, National Guard, and U.S. Coast Guard service members – have taken advantage of FMCSA’s Military Skills Test Waiver Program, which has been conducted in close cooperation with the Department of Transportation, Department of Defense and the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA).

Additional information, including a standardized application form accepted in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, is available at: http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/registration/commercial-drivers-license/military.

Fort Worth-based BNSF Railway plans to hire 5,000 workers this year as part of a $5 billion investment in the railroad, Carl Ice, the company’s new president and CEO, said this morning during an interview on CNBC.
Ice, who recently took over the CEO post from Matt Rose, said the new jobs will be spread across the railroad’s many functions but that the biggest number will be in train crews to serve its growing business. The company is also adding 500 locomotives and recently announced plans to purchase 5,000 next-generation tank cars to haul crude oil from fields such as the Bakken Shale.
Read the complete story at The Star-Telegram.

BNSF_Color_Logo Fort Worth-based BNSF Railway plans to hire 5,000 workers this year as part of a $5 billion investment in the railroad, Carl Ice, the company’s new president and CEO, said this morning during an interview on CNBC.

Ice, who recently took over the CEO post from Matt Rose, said the new jobs will be spread across the railroad’s many functions but that the biggest number will be in train crews to serve its growing business. The company is also adding 500 locomotives and recently announced plans to purchase 5,000 next-generation tank cars to haul crude oil from fields such as the Bakken Shale.

Read the complete story at the Star-Telegram.

railyard1-150pxWASHINGTON – The nation’s freight railroads this year project they will spend approximately $26 billion to build, maintain, and upgrade their nationwide rail network, according to an estimate released March 12 by the Association of American Railroads. Railroads also expect to hire more than 12,000 people in 2014, for jobs throughout all areas of the industry and located all across the U.S.

“This year’s projected record investments continue a decades-long trend of private railroad dollars that sustain America’s freight rail network, so taxpayer’s don’t have to,” said AAR President and CEO Edward R. Hamberger. “The result is a rail network that is the envy of the world, serving both freight and passenger railroads, and this massive private financial commitment is a demonstration of the industry’s resolve to never stop improving.”

Hamberger noted that freight railroads have invested approximately $550 billion of their own money into the rail network since 1980, including $115 billion in the past five years alone. From upgrades to bridges and tunnels to new tracks and facilities, freight rail infrastructure is constantly maintained and upgraded to meet the demands of an evolving economy. Thanks to a strong rail network infrastructure, railroads in recent years have been able to successfully meet increased demand for intermodal shipping, a booming domestic energy market and more. The industry’s investments also include implementing the latest safety technology across the rail network.

“The rail industry is committed to safety and we’re investing record amounts to implement safety enhancing technology across the network,” Hamberger said. “Railroads are working to deliver a safe, modern and efficient rail network that can reliably serve our customers and communities. And at the same time, this spending creates jobs for more American workers.”

The freight railroads estimate they will hire more than 12,000 employees in 2014, up from a projected 11,000 new hires in 2013. Company job listings can be accessed via www.aar.org/jobs.

“Freight rail is a great industry for a potentially life-long career with one of our great railroad companies,” Hamberger said. “America’s railroads also have a long history of hiring veterans, and railroad careers rank among the best for military veterans and their families.”

Tomorrow, advocates and representatives from the freight rail community will participate in Rail Day 2014, meeting with policymakers and elected representatives on Capitol Hill to stress the importance of America’s railroads to our economy. “Today’s news of record investments and steady hiring demonstrates how America’s economy rides the rails,” Hamberger said. “That’s a message we’re eager to share.”