Virginia DOT’s Data-Driven Approach Leads to Growth in Apprenticeships; Partnerships with Private Sector on Project Delivery

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is growing its apprenticeship program and finding innovative ways to attract, train, and retain employees using strategies supported by data. At the heart of this growth is a need for both public and private sector stakeholders to ensure all transportation workers are well-trained and equipped to deliver the program. Apprenticeship programs enable that training to occur, offering education for public and private sector workers alike.

Using the Construction Inspector Apprenticeship Program as an example, Jameo Pollock, M.Ed., CPP, Statewide Technical Training Manager, believes it is the partnerships with the private sector that help us deliver effectively and safely, while also reducing costs by offering the scalable workforce support that contractors and consultants provide. After a successful six-year run, the Construction Inspector Trainee  Program was successfully transitioned to a formal Apprenticeship program, now registered with the U.S. Department of Labor and open to anyone. Using apprenticeships to build capacity aligns with the Virginia governor’s Executive Order, “Forty-Nine (2015) – Expanding Registered Apprenticeships in Virginia,” which directs the expansion of state agency enrollment as registered apprenticeship sponsors. These partnerships enable VDOT to meet the requirements of sustainable transportation work across the state.

“Contractors are a vital part of our workforce planning efforts, and will remain as such for the foreseeable future,” said Tracey Sloan, VDOT’s Workforce Development Program Manager. “These partnerships enable us to use funds wisely, while also building the capabilities and competencies of our existing and future transportation workforce—exciting for our community, our state and the industry as a whole,” said Sloan.

Since coming to VDOT in 2017, Pollock has tracked the performance of the program, and continuously looks for ways to improve it.  “That’s where the true value will be—an apprentice program that delivers sustained success and boosts our workforce readiness and success,” he said.  Some of the improvements made to date include:

An apprentice studies a plan book.

  • Partnering with the community college system to teach required instructional courses
  • Improving the screening process to source people who are a good fit for the construction inspector positions long-term.

“One of the most exciting recent developments is partnering with Greg Henion, Deputy State Construction Engineer, in the Construction division, to develop clear pathways through multiple levels of inspection roles,” said Pollock. With this program, candidates are given more training and competency development, rounding out their technical skills to include other essential aspects such as budgeting and project planning.”

With the success of the Construction Inspector Apprenticeship Program at VDOT, the Workforce Development Team is currently in the process of analyzing and exploring additional apprenticeship program options, based on the alignment of business needs and budget.

Partnerships with the private sector are essential for successful delivery of VDOT projects.  That is one of the reasons the Workforce Development team at VDOT launched a Transportation Workforce Success Board last September.  With the private sector partnerships being so essential, Jan Morehead, VTCA, was asked to join the board. Sloan reinforced that “Jan regularly contributes to informing workforce development efforts that impact the private sector, and connects us with key stakeholders across the state and industry.”