Infrastructure: Can we build it, if it comes?

President Donald Trump’s proposed 10-year, $1.5 trillion plan to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure has left state and local officials with lots of questions. Do we have the skilled laborers necessary to do the job?

Houston Contractors Association's Jeffrey Nielsen said for more than a decade, he’s seen a lack of labor in civil construction.

Skilled laborers can make a six figure salary without a high school degree, but it's not a sexy industry working out in the elements. Nielsen said they're facing serious challenges finding people to do this work.

“It’s always been bad, but with the recent focus at the national level on immigration reform, building a wall, making sure that the workers that are here are all US citizens, in Texas, that’s had a very chilling effect upon the work force,” said Nielsen.

He said some approaches to immigration is creating a more open field to invite unions into the state.

Texas and Mexico have had a close working relationship in the past. Mexicans used to be the workforce.

Nielsen said with the creation of E-Verify, now every new employee must be documented, and they’re turning away people who not US Citizens.

“We already do set asides for doctors, lawyers, engineers, architects to come into the country. They get a block of green cards put aside for them for immigration because we want to attract the best and the brightest,” said Nielsen.

He said they need the same to be done for skilled labor, otherwise, the industry could be killed off.

It trickles down to affect us because jobs take longer to get completed and it costs more because the labor market is getting harder to fill.

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