Contractors, get your hard hats and construction tools ready!
On March 3 U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced the Local Hire Pilot Program, which will open up federally-funded construction jobs to local workers, in a proposal. While the plan is only scheduled for the next year, it can be extended as Foxx and other agencies see fit.
The Special Experimental Projects No. 14 makes this program possible. Under the SEP-14, the Federal Highway Administration and the Transportation Research Board have the power to assess "project specific" construction practices, including the former use of only government employees on federally-funded projects, as stated on FHWA's website. In this case, FHWA initiated SEP-14 in order to see if hiring locally affects competition negatively, Foxx's proposal said.
Introducing a new bill
The year-long pilot program came as a result of California House of Representative Karen Bass. Her "Local Hire Act," introduced in late-2013, would make it easier for government-funded projects to choose workers from local communities. Hiring authorities would also have the ability to target certain groups for hiring, such as low-income families, underemployed neighborhoods and veterans, according to a press release from Bass's office.
"As our economy comes out of the worst recession since the Great Depression, we should ensure that money from local communities stays in those communities to help local residents," explained Bass.
Prior to the bill's introduction, the government banned federally-funded companies from recruiting locally, which limited the hiring pool and crippled job growth.
The start of a new era
Foxx's new pilot program comes as part of the Grow America Act, which works to create jobs and improve the transportation industry. Every $1 billion used for public construction creates 13,000 jobs, according to the initiative's website. Wouldn't it be great if those new positions benefited your community?
Previously, contractors who received funds from the FHWA and the Federal Transit Administration couldn't hire anyone based on anything other than skill level and experience, according to the proposal. However, a clarification of the 1986 decision of Section 112 (Competitive Bidding Requirements Under the Federal-Aid Highway Program) from the Department of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel redefined the hiring process. As long as it doesn't "unduly limit competition," companies can hire local employment.
Of course, if a company isn't recruiting strictly based on skill set, some workers may not be as highly qualified as others. While it's never a bad idea to brush up on construction safety, it may be even more so with employees who wouldn't normally work together. Before labor begins, it's good to ensure that everyone knows how to handle themselves on a construction site.
The Department of Transportation's new Local Hire Pilot Program will provide more opportunities for those workers who wouldn't normally have a chance. Grow America is dedicated to improving the nation's transportation system, and that means creating new jobs. The Local Hire initiative will ensure that those new positions benefit the communities where there is new construction.