In addition to serving as the largest investment in roads, bridges, and passenger rail in more than a half-century, the Infrastructure Bill that President Biden recently signed into law represents the largest federal investment in public transit, clean drinking water, and wastewater infrastructure in American history. S&P Global Ratings estimates that the bill would lift productivity and economic growth, adding $1.4 trillion to the U.S. economy over eight years.
Federal agencies will receive the majority of funding and be tasked with implementing the legislation, including the disbursement of funds. State and local officials will be held accountable in designing and building the assets, tracking the funding sources across projects, and hiring additional workers to complete the jobs. The issue that the heavy building materials and construction industries face right now is recruiting enough additional workers to complete the work.
Finding Skilled Labor to Fill Jobs Will Be Challenging
The crippling worker shortage has been a long-standing industry issue that has been further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Nationwide, 92 percent of contractors report “moderate to high levels of difficulty” finding skilled workers, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s quarterly construction report. More than a third of the participants in the research study also report having to turn down work due to labor deficiencies.
While it’s estimated that the Infrastructure Bill will create 2 million jobs over the course of a decade, it’s also estimated that the industry could face a shortage of at least two million workers through 2025, per data firm, Construction Industry Resources. This poses a challenge to filling these new job opportunities and delivering on the expansion of the nation’s infrastructure.
Fixing the worker shortage is not going to come overnight, and it might not even come within the next decade. The good news is that companies can turn to the use of technology to make the process of building new infrastructure more efficient, cost-effective, and to reduce – where possible – the amount of labor required to complete these projects.
Productivity Has Been A Long-Standing Issue
There’s been a productivity lag in the construction industry for decades – one that costs the global economy $1.6 trillion annually. Lack of technological advancements, lack of communication, coordination issues, and an inefficient use of time are all issues that serve as the gordian knot in construction productivity. Technology can cut through the complexities.
Digitally collaborative technologies and tools that work on cloud-based desktops and mobile platforms provide clear insights into how materials and manpower are moving, placed, and working. The Infrastructure Bill poses a once in a lifetime opportunity to not only upgrade the country’s infrastructure, but also to upgrade the infrastructure – the tools and systems – that we use to build our infrastructure. The old ways of working are no longer aligned with the new rules of success, and to close the gap between trading partners on projects, all industry players need to go digital.
Digital Collaboration Platforms Combat Challenges to Achieve Ambitious Goals
Command Alkon is in a perfect position to champion construction firms in completing the goals of the new legislation because we have aligned our products to equip each constituent in the infrastructure supply chain – DOTs, Contractors, Suppliers, and Haulers – with digital tools and an open, data-sharing network to promote end-to-end digitization and supply chain collaboration enabling real-time visibility to mitigate risk, identify issues before they become failures, and provide actionable and operational insights that keep projects on or below budget and on schedule.
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) includes money for advanced digital construction management systems and related technologies. The program is funded at $20 million per year, for a total of $100 million, over five years. This funding is a clear indication of the critical role that technology will play in designing and building better, cost-effective infrastructure. A boom in U.S. construction will play a major role in reviving a battered global economy, and it’s time to empower limited workers with solutions that help them to work more productively and avoid pitfalls and schedule delays to make the most of this investment.