Austin Mayor announces plans for a “one-of-a-kind” Austin Infrastructure Academy

Central Texas is projected to need 10,000 jobs annually to complete in-the-works capital improvement projects.

The front of Austin's downtown City Hall

City Council is expected to vote next week on a resolution enacting work on the Austin Infrastructure Academy.

Photo by ATXtoday

Mayor Kirk Watson just announced plans to build the Austin Infrastructure Academy, a “one-of-a-kind” training hub for infrastructure jobs based on real-time needs in Central Texas.

The project could help fill a pressing need for workers amid yet another period of rapid growth in Austin. Here’s what to know.

The need

Austin is in an era of infrastructure overhaul.

Between the ongoing Project Connect — which just opened a new station this month — and work on the I-35 expansion beginning this year, Austin has several long-term projects in the pipeline that amount to billions of dollars in investment.

There’s just one problem: we need people to build these projects.

Central Texas’ first mobility workforce study, released last fall, found the region is expected to need 10,000 jobs annually to complete all of the capital projects in the pipeline. That’s an 81% increase by 2040, and according to Watson, we’re about 4,000 workers short.

A rendering of Cesar Chavez St. over I-35, with green space to the background and walkways with gardens bordering the street.

The upcoming I-35 expansion will result in several changes to Downtown Austin, including “caps” over the highway.

Rendering via TxDOT

The plan

Watson acknowledged that the city has several existing training programs — including Austin Area Urban League and Austin Community College — but said he aims for this new academy to bring the current work being done “to scale.”

The vision — in collaboration with Workforce Solutions Capital Area, CapMetro, and the Austin Transit Partnership — is in very early stages.

However, Watson envisions a comprehensive program that would combine recruiting, training, childcare support, and placement. The Academy would operate out of a physical building and be funded with existing money pulled from a range of sources.

Austin City Council is set to review a resolution next week that would officially begin the process of bringing the academy to fruition.

“We need to capitalize on this moment, grab the coming opportunities and prepare our community for these projects and the careers that are made possible from them,” Watson said in his newsletter, the Watson Wire.