PMI Survey Looks into US Infrastructure

Historic investments, rapidly evolving technologies, and social and environmental changes are shaking up the infrastructure industry. While impacts are being felt around the world, PMI’s recent survey took a closer look at how the state of U.S. infrastructure in particular affects Americans’ everyday lives. Brantlee Underhill explores the findings and indicators for project professionals.

Written by Brantlee Underhill • 3 Feb 2023

The speed of life

The infrastructure sector is experiencing a global disruption due to increased investment, rapidly evolving technologies, and social and environmental changes. This disruption means some of the world’s most exciting large-scale and mega-scale projects are infrastructure-related.

In the United States, a historic investment of US$550 billion was made to revitalize the country’s infrastructure through the U.S. Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), signed into law in November 2021. One year later, more than US$185 billion in funding has already been distributed for 6,900 projects, reaching all 50 states and U.S. territories. Some of the largest projects slated and underway include the redevelopment of JFK International Airport in New York, removing Amtrak’s biggest bottleneck in Baltimore and creating a coastal storm barrier in Texas.

These critical infrastructure projects accelerate the need for project managers – and those with project management skills – to manage the taxpayer-funded investments efficiently and deliver project outcomes on time and within budget. According to PMI’s 2021 Talent Gap report, 25 million new project professionals will be needed by 2030, with the manufacturing and construction industries fueling high demand. The reason is simple: organizations turn to project management to deliver results consistently, reduce costs, increase efficiencies and improve customer and stakeholder satisfaction.

In fact, the 2016 Program Management Improvement and Accountability Act (PMIAA) requires federal agencies to use best practices in project and program management to enhance accountability and reduce wasteful spending, carving out an important role and opportunity for project professionals.

In October, to further explore this opportunity provided by the IIJA investment, PMI launched a survey to take a closer look at how the state of U.S. infrastructure affects Americans’ everyday lives and their level of optimism about infrastructure improvements.

Some of the most intriguing findings from the survey are captured below.

Insights for Professionals Involved in Infrastructure Projects

Hard infrastructure, including roads and bridges, is the primary concern among Americans. However, climate change protection is also top-of-mind for Americans when it comes to systems requiring improvement.

Due to the rapid acceleration of climate change, it is crucial that any infrastructure project is sustainable and improves systems to protect against effects of climate change. However, PMI research shows only one-third of projects deliver improvements to the environment, and two in five organizations report major barriers to improving social impact.

Project professionals – skilled in stakeholder management – are in a unique position to take on roles to integrate sustainability practices into infrastructure projects, like building resource and emissions management into ways of working to ensure projects have limited environmental impact.

Individuals interested in leading on sustainable infrastructure projects should look to certifications like the Construction Professional in Built Environment Projects (PMI-CP)[TM] to help sharpen and develop project skills for a built environment. When project management principles are combined with sustainability best practices, professionals tasked with delivering infrastructure updates can ensure critical climate change protections are implemented.

Majority of Americans view state and local governments as responsible for infrastructure improvements, but only 37% of adults are confident in the government's abilities to perform infrastructure improvements in their community.

While U.S. law requires federal agencies to use best practices in project and program management, those requirements do not apply to many federally funded projects undertaken by contractors, state agencies, local governments and others on behalf of the federal government.

To ensure taxpayer dollars are being spent wisely and these vital projects are delivered on time and on budget, state-level project and program managers engaged in new infrastructure initiatives should also be certified under an ANSI-accredited standard like the Project Management Professional (PMP)®.

Younger Americans express more confidence in infrastructure improvements in their communities and tend to value soft infrastructure like internet access and school systems, in addition to public transportation and climate change protections, more than older generations.

For professionals involved with infrastructure projects, keeping a pulse on the next generation and their priorities is crucial. Our data shows infrastructure improvements are more important to younger generations across the board, with over half of the younger demographics surveyed reporting quality of infrastructure systems a factor in their decision on where to live.

Professionals involved in infrastructure projects are not only delivering critically needed updates, but they are building the cities and systems in which the next generations will live. This is both an exciting proposition and an important responsibility.

And the good news is, there are a variety of opportunities to get started on a career in project management, from taking PMI’s free, 45-minute introductory Kickoff course to earning a Certified Associate in Project Management CAPM)® — a widely regarded certification for novice project managers. Young professionals who have a vested interest in seeing these projects come to life can affect change themselves by getting started on their own project management journey.

The State of Infrastructure

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) has been described as a once-in-a-generation investment in American infrastructure, and some say the “decade of infrastructure” is at our doorstep. For project professionals, this investment provides an important opportunity to help create sustainable, next-generation infrastructure across the country and meet the various, urgent needs.

Brantlee Underhill headshot

Brantlee Underhill
Chief Community Officer and Interim Managing Director, North America | PMI

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