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Navigating Austin’s Infrastructure Renaissance: Sustainable Growth through Workforce Development

May 14, 2024
view of Austin skyline

The recent approval of Austin City Council’s proposed Austin Infrastructure Academy marks a pivotal moment in our city’s trajectory, one that promises to shape the future of our engineering and construction sectors while addressing the pressing demands of a rapidly growing metropolis.

Austin’s ascent to the top ranks of U.S. metros in terms of business expansion and population growth is nothing short of remarkable — in fact, it was ranked #1 among the 50 largest U.S. metros in 2020.

Furthermore, realizing the full potential of the funding from the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) necessitates innovative partnerships and collaborative frameworks that transcend traditional boundaries.

This momentum underscores the urgency of preparing our workforce to meet the demands of infrastructure projects, such as the I-35 expansion, Project Connect, and the ambitious 20-year master plan for Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. With an estimated $25 billion in investments fueling these initiatives, the need for skilled tradespeople and expert workers has never been more pronounced.

The cornerstone of the plan lies in its innovative approach to workforce development. In establishing the Austin Infrastructure Academy, the City is pioneering a recruitment and training network unlike any other. At the Academy, students will receive training lucrative career pathways while simultaneously bolstering the city’s manpower to implement more infrastructure improvements.

This initiative not only addresses the immediate need for skilled labor but will also nurture a pipeline of talent that is uniquely tailored to Austin’s evolving needs. Students will have reduced barriers to entry with career services designed for their unique needs – from training, childcare, job placement and recruiting.

As we look ahead, I am filled with optimism for the future of Austin and its industry partners. The convergence of visionary leadership, unprecedented investment, and new talent positions our city for a decade of unprecedented growth and infrastructure innovation in resilience, Smart Cities, adaptive reuse, and transportation.

By embracing the Infrastructure Academy and fostering strategic partnerships, we can unlock the full potential of Austin’s vibrant economy while building a more resilient, equitable, and sustainable future for our City.

As we engage with initiatives like the Austin Infrastructure Academy, engineering firms like STV will play a pivotal role in shaping the future of the City’s development. Whether through mentorship programs, skills training initiatives, or strategic partnerships, there are countless avenues for us to contribute to the prosperity of our city and its residents. We can build more than structures: we can build communities where every individual has the opportunity to thrive.

Eric Ploch headshot

Eric Ploch, P.E., is the vice president and regional director of program management in STV’s Austin office. He has over 30 years of experience in infrastructure design, planning and program management. He has also provided advisory services to major transportation clients such as the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority, TxDOT and the Missouri Department of Transportation. He is also heavily involved in the Austin community and has served as principal-in-charge for transit and regional mobility assignments with the Capital Metropolitan Transportation Authority (CapMetro), the City of Austin, and the TxDOT Austin District.