Originally Published: June 12, 2016 6 a.m.
All too often we perceive infrastructure jobs as short-term, temporary employment that doesn’t carry an impact on the local economy. In the face of wage stagnation and growing inequality, however, infrastructure investment can actually create economic opportunity through projects like increasing broadband access, improving transportation and logistics, bolstering freight connectivity, and improving water quality and reuse. Beyond the immediate projects, the skills required for these jobs carry over into a variety of long-term employment opportunities with middle to high wages such as warehousing and logistics, power plants, waste water treatment plants, and other facilities.
The majority of infrastructure jobs fall into 95 employment categories with wages that pay up to 30 percent or more to laborers with a high school diploma or less. According to the Brookings Institute, 93 percent of infrastructure jobs do not require a bachelor’s degree and most jobs that will carry on beyond an infrastructure project, like plumbers, truck mechanics, and power line installers, stress on-the-job training and apprenticeship programs rather than formal, long-term education.
The most competitive jobs, some of which do require advanced degrees, in infrastructure scored highest across 11 different knowledge categories that on the surface seem to have little to do with construction, according to a recent Brookings Institute study. Top knowledge categories for high wage infrastructure positions include: public safety and security, transportation, engineering and technology, law and government, design, mechanics, building and construction, physics, geology, and telecommunications.
Yavapai College Regional Economic Development Center is currently working with Dorn Homes and several invested contractors in the area to develop a short-term training for entry level laborers that incorporates knowledge and skills required for these infrastructure jobs. This partnership between employers and educators focuses attention on the broad array of occupations involved in infrastructure and the immediate need for laborers in residential building.
In the Quad City Area there are 8,241 jobs in infrastructure employment categories involving Architecture and Engineering Occupations, Construction and Extraction Occupations, Installation, Maintenance, and Repair Occupations, and Transportation and Material Moving Occupations. This is a 4.4 percent growth over 2015 and 9 percent above the national average for a region of this size.
Eleven percent of the entire U.S. workforce is concentrated in these jobs. Prescott Valley leads the pack locally for employment in these categories with 2,235 jobs in 2016, followed by Prescott zip 86301 with 2,200 jobs, Prescott zip 86305 (much of which is unincorporated area in Yavapai County) with 1,087 jobs, Chino Valley with 833 jobs, and Dewey-Humboldt with 652 jobs.
Alexandria M. Wright is director of the Yavapai College Regional Economic Development Center, which provides analysis and services that facilitate economic development throughout Yavapai County and build wealth in our local communities.