An initiative to train thousands of Central Texans in career paths tied to the region's tens of billions of dollars of new infrastructure projects on the horizon launched March 22 at Austin Community College's Riverside Campus.

The overview

Local leaders gathered at ACC Riverside March 22 to mark the start of the Austin Infrastructure Academy, a workforce recruitment and training collaborative formed in advance of years of major development around Greater Austin.

ACC Chancellor Russell Lowery-Hart said the Central Texas college system will be the “primary front door” for the new program aimed at getting thousands of residents into stable careers in construction, heavy machinery operations, welding, electric fleet maintenance, HVAC and other industrial- and technology-related fields.

“The establishment of this infrastructure academy is what bold leadership looks like," Lowery-Hart said. "People from across sectors coming together, identifying common challenge and collectively working towards a solution that won’t only allow Central Texas to develop the infrastructure it desperately needs but establish clear pipelines to thousands of good-paying jobs—correction: not jobs, careers. These offer a pathway to careers that will lead to family-sustaining wages that will change generations and communities.”
Local officials and ACC students and instructors marked the launch of the Austin Infrastructure Academy March 22. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact)
Local officials joined ACC students and instructors to mark the launch of the Austin Infrastructure Academy March 22. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact)
The background

The infrastructure academy's creation has been in the works for months through partnership between local officials, educators and representatives from infrastructure industry, workforce development and labor groups.

A 2023 study by Austin-based consulting firm CivicSol estimated that Central Texas will be in need of tens of thousands of new workers in infrastructure and mobility sectors over the coming years. In addition to all the private development taking place throughout the region, those projections are based on large-scale public projects including:“The need for the Austin Infrastructure Academy is pretty profound," Mayor Kirk Watson said. "We’re going to need to see an increase by 81% between now and 2040 of people that are in those career paths, that are helping us with our infrastructure. What that means is that we’re going to need about 4,000 more people on an annual basis ... to be upskilled or trained to be in those career paths.”

Austin City Council formally voted to support a regional workforce development plan on March 7 through new programming focused on training, recruitment, support services and access to affordable child care.

City and county officials have pointed to child care as a major piece of the infrastructure program, given the smaller share of the field occupied by women.

“This new infrastructure academy will provide the most significant opportunity our community has had to connect our local citizens, especially women and people of color, to Department of Labor-registered apprenticeship programs that will lead not to just jobs, but good family-supporting careers in the construction industry with living wages, benefits and robust worker protections," Travis County Judge Andy Brown said.

What's next

Building from the training now underway at ACC Riverside, Lowery-Hart said one of the college's new campuses will serve as the academy's future hub.

The $200 million, 76-acre facility in Southeast Travis County is one of several investments funded through ACC's 2022 bond. The campus will be located off FM 973 near the airport and offer programming centered around advanced manufacturing and skilled trades.

Lowery-Hart said the new campus, potentially to be named for the Del Valle community, could open in four to five years.