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To the ACEC Community,

I hope everyone had a safe and restful long weekend to kick off the unofficial start of summer. If you headed out of town over the weekend, you were in good company – I saw a report that 44 million Americans traveled by highway and air between Thursday and Monday. That’s a return to pre-pandemic levels – and then some. One story on holiday travel began with the words, “America is back, baby!” followed by a collage of crowded airports and jammed highways. These stories about holiday travel just spotlighted our industry’s critical role in our nation’s infrastructure. The work we do doesn’t just make travel convenient, pleasant, and safe. The work we do makes travel possible.  America is back, baby – and so much of that recovery is because of our industry.

That’s part of why our ongoing workforce challenge is so frustrating. It’s also, I believe, what makes it solvable. At our Workforce Committee’s meeting during our Annual Convention, much of the discussion centered around how we as an industry need to connect the work we do to quality of life. It was a repeated theme throughout the Workforce Committee meeting and our Workforce Summit back in April: We need to personalize and humanize what we do if we are going to make inroads in solving our workforce shortages. Next gen employees need to feel that their work matters. The technical aspects of engineering are dazzling. But the human aspects of engineering are inspiring.

That’s our message on workforce: that you don’t need to choose between making a good living and having a meaningful life. Ask Gen Z what matters to them most. Whether it’s sustainability or social equity, climate change or the cost of living, there’s an avenue within our industry to address it.

I watched the coverage of Memorial Day travel, couched around the joys of family, the beginning of summer adventures, the importance of recharging and taking stock. I felt proud of our industry, and more certain than ever that we must emphasize the essentiality of engineering. We are in for a record-shattering summer for travel. It’s been said that traveling leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.

From highways and bridges to airports and rail, our industry sets the scene for those stories, and I think we will do ourselves a great service to reclaim our own narrative.

In the meantime, as the days get longer and warmer, it’s always fun to remember how fabulous summer can be. It’s a great time to ease up on the gas just a little bit. Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes – including you!

Wishing you a great week – and a great summer,

Linda Bauer Darr

Date

May 30, 2024

Category

ACEC NEWS / INFRASTRUCTURE

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