Labor Department seeks to diversify workforce on megaprojects

Dive Brief:

  • The Labor Department is looking to help diversify construction’s workforce as funding for federal infrastructure jobs rolls in. The new practice seeks to provide contractors with a more varied pool of qualified workers, according to an announcement last week
  • Via the Mega Construction Project Program, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs will offer “free, continuous, on-the-ground assistance” to project owners to staff jobsites with local workers. OFCCP said it will engage with worker advocates and local recruiters to remove barriers, while conducting compliance reviews to evaluate contractors’ anti-discrimination and equal opportunity practices.
  • The program applies to federal megaprojects, which the OFCCP defines as large construction projects valued at $35 million or more — some part of which must be federal funding — and that last more than one year.

Dive Insight:

The announcement follows steps taken by the Department of Commerce to expand opportunities for women in semiconductor manufacturing and construction by improving aid for child care needs. Under that initiative, companies seeking more than $150 million in direct funding from the CHIPS Incentives Program must submit a plan to provide childcare for their workers in the communities where they plan projects. 

In the future, OFCCP will designate more megaprojects, the announcement said, which could include those funded by the Commerce Department through the CHIPS Act and IIJA projects funded by the Energy Department and Environmental Protection Agency.

“The newly launched Mega Construction Project Program will focus on some of the nation’s most important infrastructure projects to provide equal opportunity to all workers by removing barriers that have historically prevented our construction trades from tapping the full talent that exists in communities that have been underrepresented,” said Jenny Yang, OFCCP director.

Recruiting local talent has become a priority for some government agencies looking to diversify the construction workforce and supply good-paying jobs to communities surrounding major projects. In February, Los Angeles County approved a project labor agreement requiring local hiring on major projects built by the county.

President Joe Biden’s 2024 budget proposal recommended that OFCCP receive a $40 million — or 36% — funding boost, which could result in 125 new full-time positions.

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