Fall is in, and we turn our eyes to the workforce

This column published as "On Purpose" in October 2020 issue

Brian W. Budzynski / October 07, 2020 / 3 minute read
Brian W. Budzynski

2020 is a couple of months from its close, and I suspect most people could not be more pleased to see the other side of it. 

This has been a more than trying stretch of time; the word “cluster” and its longer variation are the common pejorative. As my professional attention is, of course, focused on our road and bridge infrastructure industry, the health and well-being of its workforce has been front-of-mind for me. Ever since I began writing and editing for Roads & Bridges, I was both humbled and vivified by my encounters with road and bridge workers, from in-office design engineers to everyday, all-day operators out on jobsites. It’s more than my understandning that these women and men do more physically in a day than I do in a fortnight, or that what’s at risk regarding the precision of their work is so incredibly important that, frankly, infrastructure should be treated as a national trust, like medicine or law. It is that everyone I have met moves with remarkable purpose.

I’m not just talking about getting stuff done or marking a punch list or “crushing it.” And I’m certainly not talking about merely accomplishing a set of predetermined tasks. What I’m referring to is the purpose one can derive from the stuff of their work—and also the purposefulness imbued on the work itself by those who perform it. 

A healthy respect, if not a degree of envy. So this month, I present to you an issue that focuses on the workforce.

In addition to terrific and insightful stories on vegetation management (page 48) and the restoration of a historic arch bridge (page 16), we are fortunate to have contributions from several key members of our industry, each of whom look at a differing aspect of what our workforce is composed of and the ways and means to maintain its viability and grow its numbers (and in so doing, its strength).

Association of Equipment Manufacturers Director of Construction Sara Feuling—who, if you recall, was a recent guest on our podcast series as well as author of the article, “How I Almost Missed Out on a Career in Construction” from the Sept. 2019 issue—has contributed a piece on how crucial it is that industry adapt to shifting cultural and generational demands (page 13). Utah DOT Executive Director Carlos Braceras outlines training and retaining a technology-savvy workforce (page 34). And AEM actually is down for two, with Workforce Development Director Julie Davis discussing U.S. veterans in the workforce (pg 28). The Delaware DOT also offers an inside look at how it has managed COVID-19 (page 40).

Finally, Queer Advocacy and Knowledge Exchange (Qu-AKE) founding president Guillermo Diaz-Fanas offers an enlightening perspective on equity, diversity, inclusion, and social justice in transportation (page 14). Questions of LGBTQIA+ rights and issues are generally underserved in our industry, as are issues regarding Blacks and other People of Color, all of whom are key to the building and maintaning of our infrastructure. The issue of parity is among the thorniest and most important facing our greater society today. Our industry is, in this regard, no different. 

But as I’ve said, we’re worthy of being a public trust and so we, together, must be up to this task, as well. 

About the Author

Budzynski is senior managing editor of Roads & Bridges.

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