Workforce development opportunities begin before new transit service even starts
Monday, I met Brian Orellana, a young man who lives in Somerville, Massachusetts, and dreams of becoming an electrician. He may just get the break he needs thanks to an innovative workforce development program that’s tied to the construction of Boston’s Green Line Extension – a new transit line that will serve his neighborhood.
In fact, the cities of Somerville, Medford, and Cambridge have all joined the MassWIN partnership, along with Boston’s transit agency, the Massachusetts DOT, and local businesses and community colleges. They’ve recognized that opportunity begins, not on the day the new rail service will open, but with the construction itself.
MassWIN draws on the experience of the successful WIN program in Denver. That program put hundreds of people from the Denver region to work learning the construction trade and all the other jobs that go into building big transportation projects, such as the city's much-celebrated Union Station renovation.
As in Denver, Boston’s initiative will leverage the region's significant public and private investments in public transportation to help unemployed and underemployed residents get a leg up.
We’re at a critical time for public transportation. Not just in Boston or Denver, but in communities across the country. Ridership is at its highest level in generations and growing. At the same time, new vehicles, new service, and the systems to support them are changing to become more efficient and better for our environment.
While those developments are promising for a nation expected to add 100 million people in the coming decade, they also require us to strengthen our workforce with the skills they need to build, maintain, and repair that new technology.
That’s why GROW AMERICA –the Administration’s proposal for a four-year reauthorization of surface transportation programs– would increase transit workforce development programs ten-fold over current spending to $20 million a year over the next four years. GROW AMERICA means that even as we're adding the transit capacity this country needs, we'll also be working with local transit agencies to help create more family-supporting jobs and good career paths for more Americans.
GROW AMERICA would invest in the people of the Commonwealth and modernize and repair the transportation network that millions of Massachusetts residents depend on to get around. Our proposal invests $200 million more in Massachusetts during just the first year for fixing and repairing transit rail, including the the Boston area's ‘T’ system. And, across Massachusetts we would invest $23 million more to fix or replace aging buses and bus facilities. And, importantly, the President’s proposal is fully paid for – that’s good news.
We’re not going to be able to do that, however, if Congress doesn’t act to provide predictable long-term funding for our America’s transportation system. As Secretary Foxx said recently, “If we’re only building for the present, then we’re building for the past.”
With transit on the rise and so many critical needs across our transportation systems, we must build for the future.