On July 13, 2023, the U.S Department of Labor launched its “High Road to the Middle Class” map, highlighting existing workforce development programs that meet certain criteria to be designated by the DOL as “high road training programs.” The DOL defines these programs using the following criteria:

  • Demand-driven, or programs that partner with employers to ensure employment of participants upon graduation
  • Created through partnerships, or programs that must include participation of unions or other worker organizations
  • Accessible to all
  • Built by communities on the ground

Due to the union partnership requirements, all construction workforce development programs that do not involve construction unions have been excluded from inclusion on the map.

“ABC agrees with the DOL on the importance of high-quality, demand-driven and accessible programs to upskill the construction workforce, but unfortunately the agency has taken a discriminatory and partisan approach with the ‘High Road to the Middle Class’ program that fails to acknowledge the value of employer and association workforce development programs not affiliated with unions,” said Ben Brubeck, ABC vice president of regulatory, labor and state affairs. “This is especially egregious considering more than 88% of the construction workforce voluntarily chooses not to be part of a union.”

“We call on the DOL to embrace inclusive, all-of-the-above workforce development policies to educate the more than half a million construction workers needed in 2023 alone. This includes the efforts of ABC’s 68 chapters, which are educating craft, safety and management professionals using innovative and flexible learning models like just-in-time task training, competency-based progression and work-based learning, in addition to more than 300 federal and state government-registered apprenticeship programs across over 20 different occupations. All of these efforts are necessary to develop a safe, skilled and productive workforce. In addition, ABC member companies participate in ABC education programs and administer comprehensive in-house workforce development programs as well as GRAPs independent of ABC’s network and invested an estimated $1.5 billion in construction industry workforce development in 2022.”

Additional information on the “High Road to the Middle Class” program is available on the DOL’s blog. Learn more about ABC’s workforce development efforts at abc.org/workforce.