Adams: Highway Maintenance Career Pathways Must Highlight What Interests Young People, Leverage Established Programs

This is an update on the MTWC Highway Maintenance Engineering Career Pathways Initiative.

“It’s not about potholes and roadkill. It’s not about snow plows and grass cutting,” said MTWC Director, Teresa Adams, at a recent webinar where she outlined the MTWC’s approach to the discipline of Highway Maintenance Engineering. “It’s a lot of vision for the future. A lot of young people are interested in things that have to do with our environment and taking care of our resources, and also technology.”

Last month, the MTWC Highway Maintenance Engineering Career Pathways Initiative was kicked off as part of the umbrella effort, the National Transportation Career Pathways Initiative. The national initiative is being conducted by five regional transportation centers across the country. Each center is working to define career pathways for a unique discipline of transportation occupations.

Discipline Working Groups (DWGs) Formed

Key to each centers’ part in this initiative is their discipline working group (DWG). The DWGs are comprised of subject matter experts who are contributing their time and expertise to help identify what is needed for each career pathway and then define components of those pathways. Last month, the centers came together with the members of their DWGs for an orientation webinar and to kick off the initiative. A recording of this orientation webinar is available.

Highway Maintenance Engineering is a Diverse and Evolving Discipline

Adams explained that highway maintenance occupations encompass a wide range of topics, such as environmentally relevant issues like surface water management, wildlife protection, invasive species and plants, brush control, and emerging technologies like drones and GPS-guided equipment. To address this diverse discipline, MTWC has put together a DWG with members representing a wide range of skills and expertise. The group includes highway maintenance directors, public works directors, people who know about pathways and industry employers.

Building on Established Resources

Fortunately, while the Highway Maintenance Engineering discipline is very diverse, it also has a wealth of established programs that will contribute to the development of career pathways.

“Our vision is to build upon the work that’s already been done in highway construction. We will take that to the next level by adding-in asset management like the long-term care and stewardship of our infrastructure systems. The exciting thing for our group is there’s so much already out there and we don’t have to start from scratch. A lot has been done on the body of knowledge for technologists and technicians. A lot has been done in certification on some of the maintenance systems and some of the engineering,” said Adams.

Adams also outlined some of the tactics that the group will use in this initiative. Leading up to the launch, her team identified some resources that may be beneficial, such as apprenticeship programs.

Next Steps

The MTWC Highway Maintenance Engineering Career Pathway initiative will begin quarterly calls with members of its DWG in April.

For more information, please contact Maria Hart at maria.hart@wisc.edu.