MTWC Takes on Highway Maintenance Engineering Career Pathways

The Midwest Transportation Workforce Center has embarked on a two-year endeavor to create pathways for the skilled careers needed in the Highway Maintenance Engineering discipline over the next 10-15 years.

To do this, MTWC will form a working group, identify critical occupations, design career pathways, and implement methods to evaluate success. The center will also work to refine curricula that take into account emerging advances in technology like automated vehicles, sensors, robotics, artificial intelligence, geographic information systems (GIS), machine guidance systems, and others that may be on the horizon. The career pathway for highway maintenance occupations will start at the technical school level.

Currently, there is no clear pathway to occupations in highway maintenance. For starters, students cannot major in Highway Maintenance at a technical school or university. To explore needs in this career pathway, MTWC will seek to answer questions like: What kind of knowledge is needed for technicians or engineers in this field?

Occupations in highway maintenance are increasingly technical and specialized. For example, proper pavement treatment depends on climate, surface, and age of the pavement. Additionally, in places like the upper Midwest, winter maintenance, including snow removal, can be as much science as it is art, as many communities are moving away from salt to more environmentally friendly mediums such as beet juice and cheese brine.

Highway maintenance has a significant impact on everything from safety and costs over a road’s life cycle to wildlife and the environment. To be successful, roadside managers must be able to troubleshoot and leverage diverse skills and knowledge bases. For example, roadsides managed with pollinators in mind can achieve multiple goals at once, such as stabilizing roadsides, reducing storm water pollution, supporting wildlife, and building public exposure and appreciation for the local landscape.

MTWC’s work on Highway Maintenance Engineering career pathways is part of the National Transportation Career Pathways Initiative. Led by the National Network for the Transportation Workforce (NNTW), which is funded by the Federal Highway Administration, the national initiative will look at five disciplines: (1) Engineering, (2) Planning, (3) Safety, (4) Operations, and (5) Environment.

Each of the five NNTW regional centers is taking on one of these disciplines.

To keep abreast of the project, send an email to Maria Hart at maria.hart@wisc.edu. You can also visit the National Network for the Transportation Workforce website at NNTW.org, or click on the Initiative link on the MTWC website.