In the USA, many water infrastructure upgrades are going to be needed in the next couple of decades.
There is a growing concern, however, that with many laborers in this field set to retire soon, there may not be enough people to do the jobs.
Brookings Metropolitan Policy Programme, based in Washington D.C., has recently been thinking through this problem and has held a conference in hopes of coming up with some solutions.
Some questions that were raised revolved around raising awareness of this field of work and encouraging young people to consider it – seeing as it is a well-paid area of labor.
Some of the main issues with recruitment for water infrastructure jobs were discovered to be the general invisibility of the whole vocation.
Many young people are simply unaware that jobs like these even exist – let alone have considered training for them and doing them.
Brookings Now reports:
” We have to do a better job recruiting,” said Kishia Powell, Atlanta’s commissioner for the Department of Watershed Management, in response to an audience question on how to get young people interested in water jobs. She outlined various initiatives that Atlanta is using to get students as young as elementary school age interested in working in the water sector, including career days, internship programs, and more.”
Questions like how to get young people to see the importance of these roles, versus the glamour and promised affluence of other professions in the financial, medical, and legal sector, remain to be answered, but Brookings in D.C. and the Department of Watershed Management in Atlanta are certainly taking timely steps in the right direction by encouraging American young people to consider them.
This problem is not restricted in the USA, with similar issues being faced in Australia and New Zealand.
There are major skills shortages looming across the transportation, water utility and construction sectors. In some sectors, the skills shortages are here now.
Looking at this issue from an infrastructure asset management viewpoint, a key consideration of asset lifecycle management is examining constraints to providing levels of service, and managing the lifecycle of assets.
Constraints could include:
- Lack of funds to maintain, replace or build assets
- Lack of professional services for investigation, design, project management, and asset management
- Lack of labor to operate, maintain or build infrastructure assets
- Lack of suitable materials
- Lack of required permits to build the assets
- Lack of land or sites to build new assets
- Lack of water sources to upgrade or extend water supply systems
Often an overlooked constraint is that of suitably qualified labor resources – ranging from management, professional, operators, maintenance, and construction.
How sustainable is the management of your assets if you will not have the labor to manage, design, project-manage, operate, maintain, and construct infrastructure assets?
The clear answer is – if you do not have sustainable labor then the long-term management of your assets is not sustainable.
Analysis and finding solutions to the labor constraint issue must be part of your infrastructure asset management program.