Addressing Transportation Construction Workforce Needs Through Innovative Policies and Practices

The objective of this project is identify innovative approaches for the hiring and retention of workers in the transportation construction industry. We document the experience of other sectors of the economy, including healthcare and technology, in addressing workforce shortages and/or gaps through both short-term and long-term solutions. These solutions may include policy measures that allow access to employment for guest workers.

Principal Investigator: 
Tom O'Brien, Ph.D.
PI Contact Information:

California State University, Long Beach

March 2023
Impacts/Benefits of Implementation: 

There is a growing shortage of highway and transportation construction workers. A 2019  survey conducted by the Associated General Contractors of America prior to the pandemic found that construction firms across the country are struggling to fill open positions. Eighty percent of survey respondents indicated they have difficulty filling jobs in occupations that are essential to highway construction. This includes heavy equipment operators, cement masons, and iron workers, among others. This workforce shortage is an even more acute problem in 2022 as a result of pandemic-generated labor disruptions and the need for workers to implement projects funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL). In California, there are 1,536 bridges and over 14,220 miles of highway in poor condition. The BIL will invest $4.9 billion in the State for highway-related infrastructure projects.  This research contributes to the State’s efforts to fill open transportation construction positions through (1) documentation of Best Practices in workforce recruitment and retention from other economic sectors including healthcare and advanced technology, (2) validating approaches with employers and employees in highway construction, and (3) Developing a hiring and retention checklist for the industry with key milestones and resources.

Project Number: 



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SJSU Research Foundation   210 N. 4th Street, 4th Floor, San Jose, CA 95112    Phone: 408-924-7560   Email: