Construction sites are up and running, infrastructure work is underway, and men and women are chipping away at big projects, bit by bit. Italy’s National Recovery and Resilience Plan (NRRP) is creating employment opportunities as the major economic post-Covid stimulus package helps modernise the country’s infrastructure. High-speed rail links are chief among the NRRP’s priorities, including the Terzo Valico lines (Genoa-Milan), Naples-Bari, and Verona-Padua routes, along with high-capacity railways in Sicily and other open construction sites in the traffic system and beyond.
These are “large-scale works” indeed: the construction sites are giant, employing thousands of people for several years to come.
The Webuild Group, a major player in these infrastructure projects, estimates that its number of Italy-based workers will reach 53,000 by 2024. (That includes both direct employees and those along the supply chain). This is a considerable increase from the Group’s 16,100 Italian-territory employees in 2021.
Large-scale construction has accelerated over the past few months, causing an uptick in the workforce. The challenge will be to sustain this employment growth well beyond 2024 – the timeline laid out by the European Union for the works’ completion in countries’ individual NRRP roadmaps.
For this to happen, all available resources will need to be put to good use. That will include not just NRRP funds, but standard EU funds as well as funds from the national budget. In all, that’s about €280 billion that could be invested in modernising the country, while also maintaining steady employment growth like that of the past few months.
The direct impact of the NRRP
The government’s immediate goal with its NRRP-backed projects is to return to pre-pandemic employment levels.
Achieving this will require rapid implementation of as many NRRP-backed tenders as possible so that EU resources granted to Italy can be obtained quickly. A recent study by Unioncamere, the association of Italy’s local chambers of commerce, found that if the funds were all allocated, 1.7 million jobs would be created over the next five years, in all the sectors affected by the Plan. Services, public administration and green energy are some of the sectors that will be most affected, but the infrastructure sector also stands to benefit.
In what’s being referred to as the NRRP’s “mission 3”, which focuses on sustainable mobility infrastructure (railway lines, roads, and city subways), 46,000 jobs are expected to be created, says Unioncamere. In addition to these, another 182,000 jobs will be created in the renewable energy sector and through “mission 2,” which focuses on the ecological transition, according to Unioncamere.
In essence, we’ll start to see direct effects of the NRRP as early as sometime in the next few months. These changes will help bring a substantial number of young people into the workforce, many of whom are now participating in the job placement programs launched by Webuild throughout Italy.
Young people at work on Italian construction sites
NRRP-supported projects, along with those to be launched in the coming years, will soon become “ground zero” for closing an important generational gap. After years of stagnation and insufficient job opportunities, major construction sites are now opening up to young talent, specialised technicians and engineers, who will train in Italy and then grow abroad. From the Terzo Valico dei Giovi (Genoa-Milan) to the Verona-Padua line, and from Naples-Bari to the new Jonica highway, to the railways currently under construction in Sicily, thousands of young people are now working at the construction sites managed by Webuild. Many of them are in the underdeveloped South.
According to the government, the NRRP will allocate €34.6 billion to the South for infrastructure investment. These funds will be transformed into jobs: between 2021 and 2026, youth employment is expected to grow by 4.9%, and employment of women by 5.5%. Today, more than 2,000 people work across the more than 10 active Webuild Group construction sites in the South, with an indirect workforce at 1,700 supplier companies. Many young people are among them. Some of these young people have come from Webuild’s “Scuola dei mestieri” (“Trade schools”) project, which facilitates the recruitment and training of thousands of people hoping to develop professional skills in the infrastructure world. The school is open to everyone, including those hoping to become skilled workers. It has already served as an effective response to the growing demand for manpower.
The Group supports the entry of young engineers through a series of initiatives. The last is “Premio Giovannini. Innovazione e digitalizzazione nelle infrastrutture”, which in recent days has assigned 8 training internships to as many new graduates. The Award, established in memory of the economist Alberto Giovannini who died in 2019 and former president of the Webuild Group, provides for the assignement of 40 training internships for young undergraduates and master’s graduates with a thesis on innovation and digitalization applied to the infrastructure sector over the next five years.
Supporting the entry of young people, activating new funds, opening new construction sites, building major works and modernising the country are all goals that are within reach, but only through the involvement of tens of thousands of people – a veritable army of new workers committed to rebuilding.