When Gov. Josh Shapiro signed an executive order on July 31 establishing the Commonwealth Workforce Transformation Project (CWTP), he put into law the nation’s first workforce training program to take advantage of federal infrastructure funding.
Justin Thomas, a Delaware County native and senior recruiter with Actalent, a global leader in engineering and sciences services and talent solutions, sees the potential benefits the CWTP brings to Pennsylvania.
“I definitely can see it having a positive impact within the Pa. industry, especially from a construction standpoint,” Thomas said. “In our division at Actalent, we deal a lot with federally funded projects that support our clients. COVID obviously slowed everything, and projects are still on the backburners for a lot of companies nowadays.
“Whether it be being able to invest in employees and in projects from a certification standpoint, training and development, I could really see (CWTP) help get more people into the industry, with that additional training and funding that they can offer.”
Thomas knows firsthand the construction industry and the challenges it faces.
“My dad’s in the trades,” he said, “and I worked in construction my whole life before going to college.”
Today, the Bloomsburg University product manages Actalent’s Architecture, Engineering, and Construction (AEC) recruiting team for Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. Thomas and his
team specialize in helping construction and engineering professionals build their careers across different client projects in the region.
He was intrigued when he first learned of the historic workforce program that the Shapiro Administration believes will help accelerate investments in infrastructure development – including repairing roads and bridges, and modernizing energy, water, and sewer infrastructure across the state.
“It’s been very informative to read about the program,” said Thomas. “I’m excited for the Pa. market in general, especially for getting work done. We’re able to partner with our clients and really talk through this and how it can help them, from a training and development purpose and from resources as well, whether that be supply chain issues from this year or dating back to last year, project deadlines, things like that.”
From a construction standpoint, Thomas said he’s eager to see how the program is going to boost the Pennsylvania job market as well as the state’s economy.
“A lot of construction and conceptual design projects, anything that was put on hold when we were in quarantine (during the pandemic), I think this will accelerate that forward. I’m excited to see the positive effects of this program.”
To fund workforce development, Pennsylvania will reserve at least 3% of funding it receives from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) and Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). This funding from the IIJA and IRA could lead to as much as $400 million being used for workforce training in Pennsylvania over the next five years. It is the largest infusion in funding for workforce training in state history, with as many as 10,000 new jobs in Pennsylvania being supported by CWTP.
“My understanding of the program is that it’s going to be for employers and employees that would be having funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act or the Inflation Reduction Act,” said Thomas. “I believe from a project standpoint it’s going to be up to $400,000 in additional funding for those projects funded federally from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. And up to $40,000 in additional funding for new employees as well.”
Knowing the construction industry is struggling to find workers, Thomas anticipates the program positively impacting the industry in Pa. and sees how companies in the state can best utilize the new funding offered through CWTP.
“In today’s economy from what I can see, there are a ton of jobs out there but not necessarily a ton of people for those jobs, whether that be qualification based or that the unemployment rate is very low within the construction area,” he said. “I think that could really be a segue where companies can use that to gain more workers, individuals coming from different backgrounds of education, certification level where that can really help move projects forward with training and development.”
Regarding education and certification, Thomas said the program could benefit those seeking certain certifications, including the challenging OSHA 10 and OSHA 30 courses. OSHA 10 is a 10-hour safety course covering general safety and health hazards for entry-level workers. OSHA 30 is a 30-hour safety course that provides an increased variety of safety subjects along with in-depth, industry-specific training. The latter is intended for supervisors and workers with safety and health responsibility.
“For some of the clients that we work with in central Pa. and in the Philadelphia market as well, having individuals with construction background, construction labor trying to get more technical, trying to earn those Osha 10, Osha 30, American Concrete Institute type of certifications, this is something that can help as workers enter the industry,” said Thomas.
He said additional education, which Actalent helps clients with, will be hastened through CWTP.
“This is going to accelerate that process for companies to gain more workers,” Thomas said, “and effectively get work done quickly.”