Transcript: The Technology 202: The Future Infrastructure Workforce

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MR. PALETTA: Hello, and welcome to Washington Post Live. My name is Damian Paletta, and I’m The Post’s Deputy Business Editor.

The infrastructure law passed in November, and it was set to create 15 million jobs over 10 years, 60 percent of which would require 6 months or less of job training. Joining me today is Labor Secretary Marty Walsh to discuss where things stand and how this could create a future U.S. workforce.

Mr. Secretary, thank you so much for joining us.

SEC. WALSH: Thank you, Damian. Thanks for having me, today.

MR. PALETTA: So, I know it’s only been six months, but could you give us a little update on how things are looking in terms of its implementation and potentially its impact on labor market. Are things going as you expected so far?

SEC. WALSH: Yeah, actually, we had a briefing at the White House today. I think, I want to say about 4,300 projects have been either approved or moved out through different governors and states across the country. Certainly, we have more work to do and we’re going to continue that work. So, it’s a good start for this. I think that when you think of an infrastructure bill, investment in infrastructure bill, we’re not going to see the full process going for another six or eight months.

MR. PALETTA: 4,300 projects, are they mostly in one area? You know, road-type stuff? Are we talking broadband? Like, which seems to be off the ground fastest?

SEC. WALSH: We’re talking all different projects. We’re talking some projects that Secretary Raimondo, I think, released last week. We’re talking some bridge projects that were approved through different processes. Still, when you think about the infrastructure law, there’s a little bit of delay from the time that we make the investment, we get the money out to cities and states and towns across the country.

A lot of those places right now are working on getting projects shovel-ready to actually see these projects moving forward. I think this summer, some cities and towns, as Secretary Buttigieg said this morning, we’ll see some cones and barrels on–orange barrels and orange cones on roads and bridges all across America, starting this summer as we move forward.

MR. PALETTA: Has there been anything in your–has anything surprised you in terms of hurdles you didn’t expect? I know it’s been so early, but it’s a massive law that hasn’t been done on this scale before. Is there anything that’s maybe a little trickier than you thought?

SEC. WALSH: I mean, I think it’s hard to say that right now. I think one thing that I’m very happy about, Mitch Landrieu, former Mayor Mitch Landrieu, today was talking about 53 states and territories have put up a point person for these investments, and that’s a good thing. And when you see the engagement by states and by territories that are dedicating a person to make sure these investments are done correctly and done right, that’s a good thing.

I’ve talked to mayors across America. Many mayors are excited about these investments, as well. These are projects, quite honestly, that haven’t had investments for generations in their cities and towns, another good thing. I think the long-term impacts, as well, is what’s going to come off these projects. You’re going to see–you know, the infrastructure project is a $1.2 trillion investment, but you’re also going to see a lot of private investment in adjoining areas as time moves on, there. So, this will create millions of new jobs all across America, on the construction side, but also long-term, permanent jobs, as well.

MR. PALETTA: And it’s so interesting this is happening now when you have unemployment at 3.6 percent. You’ve created over 400,000 jobs a month for, I think, 12 straight months. Is it going to be trickier to find these workers in such a tight labor market? What do you think? I mean, it seems like we’ve never been through anything like we’re going through right now in terms of a hot labor market.

SEC. WALSH: Yeah, I don’t think we’ll have a hard time finding workers for these particular projects. I think these projects are going to be projects that are going to create good jobs, good middle class jobs, good-paying jobs. There’s prevailing wage in Davis–Bacon with these jobs. So, we want to make sure that workers working these projects get a good wage. So, I think we’ll see that.

I think the ability to be able to expand trades across the country, too, will be a big part of this, be able to open the doors to get more people into trades, more union trades across this country, as well. You’ll see more and more workers going to this field. And I think that–you know, I don’t necessarily think we’ll have a shortage of workers on the construction side of it.

MR. PALETTA: So, every month when you guys put out the jobs data, which we follow so closely, you know, we see still a large number of people are quitting their jobs each month because they have better opportunities elsewhere, which is normally a great thing, you know, because it’s a better way for them to get a raise, to kind of get the job that they want instead of the job that they have.

How do you–construction could be on the short end of that stick traditionally, you know, because maybe someone says, well, I’d rather have a desk job, or I see more of a future doing something else. How do you convince people that these new construction jobs or these new infrastructure-type jobs are the kinds of things where they could have, you know, not just a one- or two-year career, but, like, you know, a full career?

SEC. WALSH: Well, I actually think–I think it goes both ways. I think there’s a lot of people working desk jobs right now or working in the hospitality industry. They’re saying, wait a second, I want to earn more money. I want to get better skills in whatever job I’m looking for. And I think construction is that great place for people to look at. I mean, I think that that’s where we’re going to see a lot of people kind of transition into the construction industry. That’s why I think it’s really important for us that we continue to invest in workforce development and job training programs as we think about moving forward.

We also have these–the clean energy–the people that are working the fossil fuel industry that will be looking to transition into new types of–new areas of work. Construction is a natural progression for them to go into–I think that we have to really think about–when you think about construction, it’s not all about getting dirty, you know, and working on a job site. It’s also, you’re building something. And I think when you’re in the skill trade, an electrician, plumber, pipefitter. You know, when you’re a sprinkler-fitter or you’re a sheet metal worker or you’re a painter, all these different things give you unique skills. And we need to make sure–and has in it, as I mentioned earlier, the Davis-Bacon prevailing wage to make sure that people are earning a good wage, and many of these jobs will be worked by union construction workers. And when you’re in the union and you’re a construction worker, you know, you’re building towards a pension, your health care, towards your annuities, and other opportunities for yourself. I think that a lot of people will kind of transition into the construction field, as we think about moving forward here and seeing the opportunities that are there for people.

MR. PALETTA: What’s interesting about this is it is not just–you can’t just find construction workers. It’s like you mentioned: You need to find pipefitters; you need to find welders, truck drivers.

You know, there could–I know it can be challenging. I think I’ve been covering the scarcity of welders for 15 years. How do you guys kind of divide and conquer in terms of getting the next generation of truck drivers and getting the next generation of welders because, like I said, you can’t just have construction workers. You need all these different pieces in order for this to work.

SEC. WALSH: Well, quite honestly, we don’t need to find a welder; we need to find people that are interested in the industry of welding or truck driving or whatever the industry might be. And I think we have to open up doors and create pathways and give young people the opportunity for pathways.

I think for 20-30 years in this country, we really emphasized college for everyone. And I think in a lot of cases, people went to college, they got their four-year degree and then they joined the building trades and they want a career in the building trades. And I think we have some opportunities here. I think we have to think about the workforce. When I think about the workforce as a whole, I think about the current workforce, the 4.5 million people that quit their job last month, and how do we get them on a pathway into a stable job that allows them the opportunity to create a good living for them and their family.

Then, I think about kids that are in, you know, juniors and seniors in high school right now, and maybe sophomores, what’s their pathway to the future? And these construction jobs that we’re talking about, this infrastructure money, is over a ten-year period. So, we have real opportunities to get young people into the construction field. We have opportunities to go all across America, in our communities of color, in our urban areas and rural areas and how do we create pathways into those jobs that historically people have bene shut out and they haven’t gotten into. Women, getting more women into construction; we’re getting more veterans. You know, we just have to continue to work collectively together to show these folks and show folks how to get a pathway into these different careers, whether it’s through apprenticeships or pre-apprenticeships. There’s opportunities that we have in front of us that we really can–and what we do by that is creating a good culture of workers in America where people are earning good wages moving forward. So, this isn’t just simply about filling a gap of shortage of workers. It’s also about creating a pathway into the middle class, and historically construction has been one of those pathways into the middle class.

And the last thing I’ll say on that, construction doesn’t necessarily mean being in holes and digging trenches. It also means engineering and architecture, areas like that, that young people and people should be getting into, as well. Engineering, designing the roads and bridges and doing all that work. So, there’s a lot of other work than construction in this infrastructure law.

MR. PALETTA: And you mentioned, you know, job training, apprenticeships. Obviously, education is a big part of this, too, technical schools and that sort of thing. I know it’s been a really hard time now for schools to find teachers. And can you talk a little bit about how important that’s going to be and how challenging that’s going to be, is to have the teachers there to support all those future construction workers in other parts of this infrastructure law.

How do you get teachers back into the classrooms?

SEC. WALSH: I mean, I think it’s more than the teachers. I think it’s a shift in philosophy, as well. I know that, you know, 20 years ago, 30 years ago, many schools in America had SHARP in it, which meant that there was a pathway into a construction program offered other programming.

I think we have to kind of reevaluate and reimagine what we are doing our educational system and teaching–really going hard on STEM. I think STEM is really important because no matter what you do in the construction field or other fields, STEM is such a major component to it. And it’s not just construction in these jobs that we’re trying to do. It’s also high-tech and biotech and life sciences and other areas. So, I think that we have to think about what does 11th and 12th grade look like.

I’ve certainly had many meetings with Secretary Cardona and Secretary Raimondo, Commerce and education, on how do we make sure we’re creating a good pathway, talking to employers, talking to potential companies that they’re going to be looking to hire people and talking to the trades, quite honestly, about opening up their doors and allowing opportunities for people who haven’t, quite honestly, had those opportunities before.

MR. PALETTA: So, you mentioned unionization and how a lot of these jobs are going to be union jobs, which is going to give them kind of a–these workers a long-term pathway towards pensions and annuities and other things like that.

We’re seeing a conversation–a lot of us are seeing a conversation about unionization, now. Obviously, you’ve been living this your–you know, most of your adult life, but we’re kind of experiencing this renaissance of union drives. A lot of the focus has been on–the national focus has been on Starbucks and Amazon. You know, do you think this is starting a healthy dialogue in this country? Is this creating a more adversarial dynamic between workers and companies? Where do you see things going from here?

SEC. WALSH: No, I think we’re still going to have these conversations. I think that–you know, I think there’s two ways of doing organizing. One is by workers organizing themselves and kind of rising up and working together. And the other way is by having conversations with employers in the country, and I think both these paths will be taken.

I think when you think about union workers, in most cases, they’re the most skilled and best qualified for jobs as we move forward. You think about the building trades, there is no better trained workforce when it comes to construction than union labor. You know, there are some programs in the non-union world that do some good things. But overall, the best, most qualified workers are union workers. When you think about the industries, whether it’s manufacturing, same thing. When you think about teaching, in some cases, same thing–most cases, same thing. So, I think, that these conversations that are happening in the country, certainly, the country is going through a transition. And whether businesses like it or not or I like it or not or whoever likes it or not, 70 percent of people polled said they would be interested in joining the union. So, the workers are speaking up at this particular moment in time.

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MR. PALETTA: Are you surprised by how hard some of these companies are fighting back to try to, you know, stop these drives from getting much momentum, or is this kind of what you’re used to seeing.

SEC. WALSH: No, I think I’m probably used to seeing this over the years, but I think a lot of it is the fear of the unknown, and I think my recommendation to a lot of people, especially with the companies that have been organized and I know some of them are pushing back, still, to a degree. You know, have a dialogue, have a conversation with the unions. Have a dialogue on what the workers are looking for, because that’s a microcosm of your company that all across your company, whether workers vote in the union or not, that’s the feeling that some cases feel underappreciated. And I think that there’s really an opportunity for companies in America here to really think about the ways that workers are being treated.

And when I say that, not all companies in America. I mean, I’m not talking–I’m not all–no, I’m not putting every company and everyone in the same situation.

MR. PALETTA: Mr. Secretary, I know, I think a few days ago you just had a conversation with some companies about how to improve job quality. I think that’s so interesting given what we’re seeing in terms of, you know, the leverage that workers have now with kind of worker shortage and stuff.

What kind of things did you hear from companies about how they can improve job quality, and how much do you think has changed since before the pandemic, in terms of their focus on things like that? What kinds of job quality improvements can be made?

SEC. WALSH: Well, I think that, first of all–I think the end of your question, I think a lot has changed since the pandemic. I think the way companies approached their workers have changed.

I think when you think about flex time, you know, flex time is not a gig economy term. Flex time has been around for a long time by companies a long time ago so people have looked at flex time. I think we are going to look at more flex time as we move forward, here. Offering opportunities, whether it’s childcare or paid family leave, I think a lot of companies looking at that, as well.

The other day, when we had the conversation at the Department of Labor, you know, we had a woman from the retail industry and she talked about the ability to work on–with some flex time for her and for her employees and the growth of their industry and how their industry has just taken off. I think a lot of people thought that the end of the brick-and-mortar store was coming throughout the pandemic. And what’s happened, quite honestly, in retail we’re seeing an increase in shopping on stores. We had another company there that was an installer of solar panels and the need for job training and workforce development and creating good opportunities and paying their workers well. And his concern was the fact that other companies were undercutting him by using undocumented immigrants and they weren’t paying their wages. So, that’s some of the things that we heard at the table that day and we’re kind of using the good jobs initiative that we launched here at the Department of Labor as an umbrella to look at, you know, how are our employees being treated in America and how could we treat employees better to be able to strengthen employment.

But also, on top of that, we also talked about not just strengthening employees’ position, but we also need to help employers, because if you don’t have good, strong, employers in America–

SEC. WALSH: –that are employing people, then all of this is for naught. So, I’m a firm believer in collaboration and having conversation.

You know, that day at the Department of Labor, I talked to a couple companies. Earlier that morning, I was at the Chamber of Commerce talking about the work we’re doing at the Department of Labor and how do we work more with businesses so we can continue to move forward, move businesses forward.

MR. PALETTA: Mr. Secretary, when I was a cub reporter at the Cape Cod Times, I often felt the best intelligence I could get about how things were going was at the diners and the bars, just talking to regular people. I know that’s something that you kind of do a lot in Boston. Like, what are you hearing from people in terms of how they feel about this economy and this labor market?

You know, obviously, 3.6 percent unemployment, it’s an amazing number, but so many people seem kind of gloomy when you look at consumer confidence and stuff. What are you hearing in terms of the mood of the country, because I feel like that might tell us a lot about where we go from here.

SEC. WALSH: I think that–yeah, no, sorry to cut you off, there. I think, you know, there’s still a lot of concern. I mean, let’s not lose sight that we’re still living in a pandemic and, you know, 600 days ago, the world got shot down, basically, as we knew it. You know, people weren’t working from homes. We’re shutting down restaurants and businesses and tourism stopped and offices and schools and everything stops the way we knew it, and we weren’t really sure what was going to happen moving forward.

You know, the President Biden, when he got elected, he talked about getting America back to work in the first year. I think it’s 7.6 million jobs we returned back to our economy. Our unemployment rate today is 3.6 percent. There’s still some unease. And you know, you can’t–I’m not going to ignore the fact that inflationary pressures are affecting people at the kitchen table all across America and we saw a little dip in the inflation number last week, which was a good thing. We have more work to do. You know, the president has asked us all to do our part as a cabinet, to bring down costs of goods and services. One of my roles, as Secretary of Labor, is to make sure that we’re working on the supply chain to alleviate any burden of supply chain issues that we have in this country, making sure that the ships aren’t out in the harbor; they’re actually at the ports. And the goods and services on those ships are on the store shelves.

So, we still have more work to do. We saw the Fed raise the interest rate the other day. It’s going to bring a little more pressure down in the market, but we have work to do, and I think between the pandemic and a little bit of inflation and what’s happening in Ukraine, I think a lot of people are still concerned about moving forward, here. But you know, the president has a plan. He had a plan last year to get people back to work by the end of the year. Almost eight million Americans went back to work. And the end of last year and the beginning of this year, he’s working on an all-of-government approach to bringing down inflationary pressures and I feel confident that, as the year goes on, we’ll start to see those pressures ease. And I think people start to feel a little better about their own personal situation.

MR. PALETTA: Mr. Secretary, I know you are obviously focused a lot on workers and their conditions they’re facing now, but I imagine you also think a lot about their retirement and their future, with 401(k)s and IRAs and things like that.

And we’ve seen just recently that one company is allowing workers to invest in cryptocurrency as part of their 401(k) or IRA plan, do you have–in the interim, these cryptocurrencies have had a really rough couple of weeks. Do you have concerns about workers kind of getting into that space with their retirement fund, or do you believe that it’s their money, you should be able to do with it whatever they want?

SEC. WALSH: Yeah, we do have concerns about it. I mean, we thought about that and incidentally the Department of Labor has been pretty vocal on that. My office has been vocal on that. Twenty percent is a lot of money to put into crypto that’s still somewhat unknown. And you know, we’ve put out some rulings on it. We’re having some backs-and-forths now, but I want to make sure that people that are retiring, want to retire in the next five years, they don’t lose their savings over something we could have prevented. And hopefully, we’re going to continue to have dialogue with some companies in America that want to invest heavily in crypto, but I certainly have concerns about that.

MR. PALETTA: And then, Mr. Secretary, my last question, Secretary Yellen at the Treasury Department recently weighed in. There’s been a lot of, obviously, discussion about Roe vs. Wade. And she said that when Roe vs. Wade–when the ruling came down in the ’70s, it had a tremendous impact on women in the workforce, allowed them to finish school and sort of plan their careers.

Do you have any thoughts about what it would mean if Roe vs. Wade is overturned by the Supreme Court and what it would mean for, you know, women in the workforce?

SEC. WALSH: Well, I certainly agree with everything that Secretary Yellen said last week. You know, obviously, she came out strong on that.

My concern if Roe v. Wade is overturned is the fact of we’re going backwards as a country, dictating to a woman what they can and can’t do when it comes to their own health, and I think it’s a very bad, bad move to go backwards. It’s been over 50 years in this country, and certainly I don’t think, you know, mostly a group of men telling women what they should be doing with their bodies and how they should handle their own health, I think it’s a bad step.

MR. PALETTA: Okay, Mr. Secretary, we’re out of time, but thank you so much for joining us here today on Washington Post Live.

MR. PALETTA: All right. We’ll be back in just a minute with my next guest, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan. Stay with us.

MR. ETZWILER: Well, hi, everybody. I’m David Etzwiler. I’m the CEO of the Siemens Foundation. And joining me today is Dr. Scott Ralls, President of Wake Tech Community College in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Scott, it is great to see you again. We were together just about a month ago, and now we’re face-to-face again. It’s a pleasure.

DR. RALLS: Great to see you, David.

MR. ETZWILER: Scott, I want to begin by acknowledging a phrase that we’ve really become enamored with at the Siemens Foundation in the last couple of months, and that is that we all do better when we all do better. And I think we’ve become enamored of it because it really reflects what we all believe, which is that economic inclusion is not only the right thing to do, but it’s the necessary thing to do to be strategic in our U.S. economy. And I know you focus on workforce training as we do, so I’m really looking forward to the conversation today.

I’d love to kick it off by asking you a question about a phrase I know is near and dear to you, which is this conversation around laddering up, a laddered economy. Help us understand what that means. Help us understand how it’s applied in your institution.

DR. RALLS: Well, at Wake Tech it’s how we position our college in our region. We’re a college that serves a prosperous region, a growing region, but it’s also a region where we have not been as strong in our economic mobility. Higher ed has played a huge role in the shaping of the research triangle region, but still, it’s a struggle if you grow up poor to not be poor as an adult. And we take that as our personal challenge at Wake Tech. So, for us, that means creating ladders to those opportunities, whether that be information technology and biotech, or the infrastructure economy, through e-mobility. We do that so that we connect the rungs of the ladder.

What that means is dual enrollment high school, early colleges, youth apprenticeship into our degree programs, for working adults, non-degree credit into our degree program, stackable degrees with certifications. And then, moving on to our very strong and strategic university partners for transfer, so that you can go up each rung. It also means a close connection with our employers where we’re always backward-mapping the employer skill requirements while scaffolding forward our student opportunities to move forward through Wake Tech and beyond.

MR. ETZWILER: That’s great, and I love the imagery of that ladder, and I love the idea of having those rungs in place that folks can take at their own pace. As long as they’re moving forward, they’re moving up, and you get the momentum really flowing, which is tremendous.

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I want to shift just a little bit a related topic, which is apprenticeship and find out a little bit about how your approach to apprenticeship is evolving at Wake Tech and how it fits into your overall workforce training approach.

DR. RALLS: Well, when we talk about our career ladders, apprenticeship is really even more than a rung; it’s kind of connective tissue. Work-based learning and apprenticeship–apprenticeship being the gold standard of workplace learning.

And so, examples, using our infrastructure economy, we have youth apprentice students in high school now who are working at Siemens here in Wake County. They will next come to Wake Tech, where they’ll be able to move forward credit through high school, go free of charge because of apprenticeship into our degree program. That program aligned with Siemens–some of the Siemens mechatronic certifications, and then being able to move on, should they choose to, to East Carolina University, which is located onsite with us, where they can complete a bachelor of science and industrial technology.

Also, if we think about e-mobility, I love the Siemens notion of this grid to plug, plug being the EV distribution, to wheels, and wheels being the mobility. So, we have a significant new facility, the Hendrick Center for Automotive Excellence where students now can come into that through high school as youth apprentices where they’re employed early on. Or they may come in as adults doing pre-apprenticeship through a noncredit program, walking into the degree as apprenticeship, go to school and work at the same time, and then go into their employment. And should they want to keep moving up to transfer to a strategic partner like Northwood University, where they can go into vehicle management or automotive management. So, it’s the idea of everything being connected, and each rung a way to move up.

And when you take it rung by rung, you can keep moving up and even climb high, even when sometimes it may seem like a high climb for many who are coming from different perspectives.

MR. ETZWILER: No, no, I follow you closely on that. And thank you for the shoutout on the green jobs economy, because it’s such an exciting time, isn’t it? I mean, green jobs are here and the need to make sure that we pair those with an inclusive economy is really an exciting opportunity for us.

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention, while we’re on the topic of apprenticeships, our partners at The Partnership to Advance Youth Apprenticeship at New America. They’ve done such a phenomenal job of capturing best practices, of helping to scale apprenticeship programs in high schools and community colleges around the country, and really telling that story so that folks understand what the possibilities are out there for them.

Scott, I would love to close a little bit with conversation about some real practical approaches to what’s happening at your institution. Those of us in business, philanthropy, government, and education are really doubled down on equity, but equity comes down to some really practical support services at times. And I know that you are really a bit of an expert on that. We’ve talked about this in the past. Help us understand what some of those supports look like, and how it’s done well.

DR. RALLS: Well, I think the rubber really meets the road at open-door institutions like ours. And we have to keep in mind that most college students, most students going beyond high school today, are nontraditional students, working students. And then, when you take students coming from lower-income backgrounds, you know, that’s the vast majority of college students.

And for many students who are facing challenges other than just going to college like a traditional student, what we have to try to do is prevent the challenges that can cause them to stop out before they stop out. In other words, how do we deal with hunger issues, which are very real and it can’t, for us, just be pantries, which we have at every campus. It has to also be food delivery in many cases so that we can overcome some of the challenges. It’s free bus passes. It is emergency aid that’s available in a very seamless fashion. It’s thinking about affordable housing in partnerships that we have.

Our goal is to prevent stop outs, because we know while many students who stop out and tend to come back, the chances are they’ll stop out they’ll drop out. What that means, too, is they’re not going to be the valuable individual that our employers need that they’re looking for in the workforce. So, our goal, and it’s really a workforce goal, too, is to prevent the stop out so that students don’t drop out, but they keep climbing up the ladder, rung by rung.

MR. ETZWILER: Yeah, I love that. Scott, those students are doing such extraordinary things to climb that ladder, and you and your team are matching them, rung by rung. So, kudos to you and your team. Thank you for the conversation today, and now back to The Washington Post.

MR. PALETTA: Welcome back to Washington Post Live. I’m Damian Paletta, Deputy Business Editor at The Post. Thank you so much for joining us. I’m excited for our next guest, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan.

Governor, thank you so much for joining us.

GOV. HOGAN: Thank you very much. It’s great to be with you.

MR. PALETTA: So, as–we heard Secretary Walsh say that there’s 4,300 projects they think are up and going or some sort of the planning stages. Can you give us a sense how many of those are in Maryland, and what do you think would be the first things that people in Maryland kind of see and feel in terms of this new infrastructure law?

GOV. HOGAN: Well, first of all, let me just say that we are very excited that the infrastructure bill passed. You know, I was Chairman of the National Governors Association and I chose a–you get to have a chair’s initiative. Mine was focused on rebuilding America’s infrastructure.

And I spent, from 2019-2020, trying to get all of the governors on board with recommendations, and all of our suggestions became part of this infrastructure bill. And you know, I hosted an unprecedented summit in Annapolis where I brought in governors, senators, and congressmen from both sides of the aisle and we really pushed to get this done. We are very excited about the implementation of the bill. We have formed a subcabinet on infrastructure; I think we’re the first state in the country to do so. And we’ve been moving forward on a number of our infrastructure projects. This funding, when we get it, is going to be helpful at us kind of taking things to the next level and implementing our infrastructure strategy.

But we’re taking–we have projects, hundreds of projects all over the state, and when we get the final regs and when we get the funding, this is going to help us kind of take them to the next level.

MR. PALETTA: Do you think–I mean, are we talking roads, bridges, broadband? Like, what sorts of things could people expect? And I know this is going to play out over many years, but you know, even like this year, in terms of physical activity?

GOV. HOGAN: Well, so, as an example, we’re making huge investments and improvements to the Port of Baltimore. We’re making improvements to BWI Airport, which is the number one airport in the region. We’ve got the largest P3 transit project in North America, the purple line, under construction; the largest P3 road project in the world, a traffic relief plan to fix the Capital Beltway and build a new American Legion Bridge. We’re moving forward on the top-priority infrastructure projects in every single jurisdiction in our state. We’ve already resurfaced the entire state highway system. But so, it’s really in every aspect of infrastructure, including protecting the grid. We made sure that cybersecurity was included and broadband. This is going to help us further the investments we’ve already taken and make great progress in many areas throughout the state.

MR. PALETTA: And Governor, you heard me talking to Secretary Walsh about the labor shortage we’re kind of experiencing as a country with 3.6 percent unemployment.

Are you concerned about getting the workers you need to do these jobs and get things going quickly? And I imagine–and a lot of companies are having a hard time finding the workers. Are you going to be able to get them for these different sectors that are going to be crucial for this work?

GOV. HOGAN: Well, that’s a good question. So, this is going to create a heck of a lot of jobs. I mean, we just had some announcements this week at the Port of Baltimore where we’re going to need 14,000 more direct jobs.

GOV. HOGAN: It’s going to contribute to about 140,000 jobs statewide. Our traffic relief plan, I think, is another 9,000 jobs. And there’s no question that there’s a worker shortage, and it’s one of the biggest challenges that we face. We need to make sure that our workforce development programs can kind of keep up with demand for more skilled workers. And we recently launched an initiative, it’s the first of its kind in the country, which removed the college degree requirement for thousands of state jobs. We’re looking to recruit people who perhaps developed skills through alternate routes, whether it’s community college or military service or just on-the-job training.

And Maryland is a national leader on apprenticeships. We’re now at the highest participation rate in state history and we’re going to–trying to continue to build a steady pipeline of workers. We’re being aggressive with our job training and retraining, reskilling. And one current example is we’re making the switch to zero-emission buses, which involves retraining skilled workers to make sure we keep all those buses in good repair and training our workers and our drivers. But we’re going to work closely with all of our universities on internships, with our community colleges, work with all the folks in the transportation field. And it’s a big issue that we’ve got to continue to focus on as a nation, is a lack of folks in the labor force.

MR. PALETTA: Another thing we talk about in terms of these big macroeconomic issues that I imagine would impact the infrastructure law is inflation. And you know, $1.2 trillion is a lot of money, but it’s not $100 trillion. You guys are going to have to be kind of strategic in what you’re going to do, and you don’t want the price to be a moving target. These projects will take time. You can’t lock in on one price and the price goes up 20 percent. How are you guys going to manage–or how do you think inflation could impact what you’re trying to do here, and is it something that you’re comfortable about or you’re kind of nervous about?

GOV. HOGAN: Well, that’s a great question. Well, first of all, this is–it’s not quite the way everybody thinks, that, like, it’s not $1.2 billion [sic] is all of a sudden dumped out into the economy and we’ve got this pile of money that we’re trying to spend. It’s really a 20-percent increase in infrastructure funding from the federal level, and it’s stretched over five years; so, about 4 percent per year. You know, it’s–we’re going to ease into the economy. But there’s no question with the supply chain crisis that we’re faced with, with the labor issues that we just talked about, that the cost of some of these projects are going up dramatically, which is going to have to–you know, we’re going to have to scale down the expectations about how far this money’s going to go. Because again, it’s projects over the next five years, many of which are bid at a number that is a potentially escalating number because of the increased costs and the inflationary pressures that we’re all faced with in every market.

MR. PALETTA: Governor, you know this as well as anybody. This infrastructure law almost existed in a parallel universe to what else was happening in Washington. You know, there was a lot of bipartisan support. You know, I think at one point there was, like, 10 Democrats and 10 Republicans in the Senate who were working, you know, closely on this.

How do you–do you think this kind of law can be replicated, or do you feel like the way things are going, even with some of the primaries this week, we might be in a situation where these types of laws are even harder to pass in the future?

GOV. HOGAN: Well, so, you know, I think this was a great example of how we can actually come together in a bipartisan way, common-sense solutions to a problem that everyone has been talking about and everyone has said that this is something that we needed to focus on in both parties.

And so, I mentioned earlier that we started this infrastructure, rebuilding America’s infrastructure initiative at the National Governors Association where we got all 50 governors to agree. And then, we got all of those recommendations put into the bill. So, that’s real bipartisanship. And the leaders of the states who were actually implementing all the infrastructure and building all the infrastructure, it was great to see agreement from us.

And then, it was–I’m a chair of a group called No Labels, and we have a group called the Problem Solvers Caucus. We met with–the Problem Solvers Caucus came out to our state capital in Annapolis, just down the road from Washington, and we brought in really governors of both parties, senators from both parties, and just about the entire House Problem Solvers Caucus, which was 29 Republicans and 29 Democrats, and we hammered out this package. You know, the Democrats kind of wanted $4 trillion of things that were not infrastructure. Republicans only wanted to spend $500- or $600 million just on roads and bridges. And we negotiated and reached a compromise at about 1.2 trillion, which includes–we got things like cybersecurity, protecting the grid, energy, resiliency, highways, roads, bridges, tunnels, airports, ports. It expanded it, but it’s all kind of focused on infrastructure, and that’s how it got done. Frankly, there were, you know, forces on both sides, Republicans and Democrats, trying to kill it because progressives wanted the $4 trillion of social spending included. The Republicans did not want some of the other things included. And President Trump was fighting against–was trying to get Republicans not to vote for it.

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So, it was a great win. You know, I’m concerned about the divisiveness and dysfunction in Washington. And in an election year, it’s kind of even harder to try to bring people together. But I’m hopeful that we’re going to find some other things that we can. This is a good example of how, maybe, you could get people to meet in the middle and reach compromise solutions.

MR. PALETTA: And then, just to go back quickly on the President Trump, I think he–as you mentioned, he really went after the law after it was passed, in part because it kind of gave a win to President Biden.

But he–some of the House Republicans I believe have voted for it lost their primaries in part because they supported it. Do you think that some might get cautious going forward that, well, if I–you know, it seemed bipartisan at the time, but there might be some kind of aftershock. Or do you think that, as time goes on and people see this law as a popular thing, you know, it will end up being kind of a good–good vote for both parties?

GOV. HOGAN: Well, I think this is a great thing for America and I think, long term, people are going to reward the people that actually made decisions to move America forward and to fix our crumbling infrastructure.

But this was not one-sided. I mean, there were–there were people in the Democratic side that were really threatening their members, because they did not want to vote for the compromise and they wanted to include the $4 trillion. And Trump did not want Republicans to vote for it. And look, it was about a mixed bag. I mean, some folks on the Democratic side lost their primaries as a result of which way they voted on that decision, or what they have or haven’t gotten done.

Some Republicans, in fact, the Chairman of the Problem Solvers Caucus, Brian Fitzpatrick from Pennsylvania, was just overwhelmingly reelected. So, and he was a leader on this issue. So, I think it’s far too early to determine what’s going to happen in the election, the rest of the primaries, or what’s going to happen in November.

MR. PALETTA: Can I ask, we have an audience question from Sondra in Nevada who asks, how do we diversify our infrastructure workforce? Women of color are barely present in this segment of the workforce.

Do you have thoughts on how, you know, we could do a better job about that?

GOV. HOGAN: Well, it’s a great question. I would say that that’s probably true. I think women in general are underrepresented in the infrastructure workforce. And women of color are probably even less represented.

You know, Maryland does a pretty good job in this area so, you know, we’re, I think, number one in the country on small, minority, and women-owned business creation and startups. And the kinds of things that we do to encourage and require the participation of small and minority and women-owned businesses in our procurement processes, but this goes back to what we were talking about earlier with skilling and training the workforce for the needs of tomorrow. And you know, there’s going to be tremendous opportunity in so many different areas that are going to be impacted by this infrastructure investment, and we certainly ought to take every step we can to make sure that we have as diverse of a group as we possibly can participating in the potential economic benefits of this.

MR. PALETTA: And speaking of training, and this is an issue that I’m really obsessed with, the education system needs to be able to train people, you know, not just in community colleges, but even at the high school level to get them ready for these jobs which could be great entry-level jobs.

Do you–I mean, I’m sure you hear a lot because of your involvement with schools in your state, about challenges finding teachers in this economy. Can you talk about whether that’s been getting better? Is that going to be a continued struggle because teachers, obviously, are part of the labor market, too, and they could decide, I’d rather do this profession or that profession? Give us an update on what you’re hearing from kind of the teacher community.

GOV. HOGAN: Well, I think we’re having issues and problems in just about every segment of our economy with people not returning to work or just, you know, problems in the workforce of trying to get–our teachers are certainly not immune to that.

And you know, so, we’re trying–you’re trying to train more teachers. But this is an area where we really want to try to work with our younger kids, you know, in high school, to say you don’t have to get a four-year degree to get a pretty good job.

And we want to work with our high schools, and we have a thing called P-TECH where we provide STEM focus with kids that need an opportunity. And we provide summer internships and apprenticeships and put them first in line for jobs. And we work closely with our community colleges and with our private sector to design programs to train workers without maybe the need for advanced higher education. Some of them come out of there with really well-paying jobs. And so, we’ve got to–we have a thing called the EARN Program where we let the private sector design the training that they need. Everybody has huge demand for workers, and their number one complaint is, we don’t have enough skilled workers. So, we’re going to have them design the programs. We’re implementing them through our–primarily through our community colleges. And the state is actually providing grants to pay for it. So, we can train more of our citizens and get them the jobs that they deserve, and also take care of our employers who have the shortage of workers.

MR. PALETTA: We’re at a kind of strange moment in the economy where we have, as you know, really low unemployment but we have record gas prices, high inflation. You know, I imagine your state is not immune to what could be happening in terms of travel in the summertime, especially. What are you hearing and seeing about the kind of localized economy and the projections that business owners have about where things could be going over the summer? Because I think that’ll kind of–people might change their investment behavior or their decisions about whether to, you know, build that addition to their building or even to like redo their kitchen or something, if they think the economy is going to pull back, and that could have kind of a domino effect.

GOV. HOGAN: Well, it’s a great question. So, right now we’re really pleased that our economy is booming and we have one of the best economic recoveries in America. And we went from, you know, seven years ago, one of the worst. We were 49th out of 50 states to one of the best. I think we had the biggest economic turnaround in America. And we now have record revenues and record job creation and record business startups. So, we’re in a good place. But there’s no question, all the things we’ve been talking about, inflation, the problems in the supply chain, problems with the work–you know, the lack of skilled workers. That’s really going to be exacerbated during the summer on the gas tax. You know, that’s a huge issue, with dramatically rising gas prices.

You know, we were the first state in America to put a pause on the gas tax to try to help people at the pump, and at one point we were the lowest gas prices in the country. Some states followed our lead, but it was only a temporary measure. It cost us about $100 million to temporarily pause it. The legislature chose not to extend it longer, but gas prices are definitely going to impact summer travel. I think people being squeezed because of inflation is going to have an impact on the kinds of spending decisions and travel decisions they make.

And a lot of our summer workforce of younger people that we needed in some of our resort areas or places where people want to go spend time this summer, they’re having a difficult time filling those positions. So, those are all things we’re very concerned about.

MR. PALETTA: And you mentioned the supply chain, I should have asked earlier, you know, the Port of Baltimore, can you give us an update on how things are going in terms of supply chain, there. They’ve had terrible problems on the West Coast, I know, but are you seeing things move in Baltimore?

GOV. HOGAN: Well, we’re really proud that the Port of Baltimore is one of the top ports in America. We’re number one in the country for roll-on/roll-off, and we’re a top port on the East Coast. We have very little or no supply chain problems with our port. As a matter of fact, we’re breaking records every single month after month, year after year. Just last week, we did an announcement where we have a brand-new shipping line, ZIM, which is an Israeli company that’s going to now be also coming in and out of the port.

We deepened our channel and deepened two berths to 50 feet. We’re working on a third one, which allows for the biggest ships in the world. We’re fixing the Howard Street Tunnel, which will allow us for–to do double-stacked trains and nearly potentially double the production of the port. It will create, directly, about 15,000 jobs and indirectly about 140,000 jobs. But you know, there are certainly issues of–lack of supply of things that aren’t being manufactured anywhere in the world. But as far as getting goods in and out, we have none of the problems that California is experiencing, or the West Coast.

MR. PALETTA: Have you–I mean, just because it’s in the news so much, the baby formula issue, how are things going in Maryland on this? Do you guys sense there will be relief soon, and is anything coming through the Port of Baltimore?

GOV. HOGAN: Well, we’re taking every step and every action we possibly can as a state, but this is really something–you know, sounds as if maybe, you know, the White House is trying to address at the federal level and trying to get the production ramped up. But this is a serious issue, I think, in every state in the country, and we’re not immune to that. We’re experiencing difficulty. I’m concerned about the moms and the parents of young children who really are very concerned about the lack of availability on the shelves. And so, I think that’s something that’s got to be addressed nearly immediately, because it’s a serious problem.

MR. PALETTA: And Governor, my last question, and I know–I asked Secretary Walsh this, as well, about the, you know, conversation about Roe vs. Wade right now and the anticipation of the Supreme Court ruling.

I know you guys have had a lot of talks about it, and legislation and vetoes in Maryland about the abortion issue. You know, can you talk us through what you think would happen if the Supreme Court overturns Roe vs. Wade, and this becomes more of a state-by-state issue? How do you see things playing out?

GOV. HOGAN: Well, first of all, I think, so far, it’s a leaked, potential draft of an opinion, and we don’t know what the decision actually will be at the Supreme Court, or if there will be one. But it’s not going to impact our state at all. So, you know, Maryland has a guaranteed right to an abortion. This is something that the Maryland voters voted on and it’s been the law of the land for quite some time. So, it won’t have any impact on us.

I haven’t made any efforts to change any of those laws, as I committed not to do since I’ve been governor. You know, there was some recent bill in the legislature where they were trying to expand abortion to people that were not as qualified, and we thought that was a step backward. So, that was the bill that I vetoed, but it had nothing to do with Roe v. Wade.

MR. PALETTA: Okay. We’re out of time, Governor Hogan. Thank you so much for joining us.

GOV. HOGAN: Yeah, thank you.

MR. PALETTA: And thank you, everyone–thank you, everyone, for joining us, as well. I’m Damian Paletta.

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