Personal Experiences and a Strong Business Case Have Resulted in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Program to Grow Much Needed Workforce

Facing many of the same workforce challenges being seen in the transportation industry, one large healthcare organization has built a successful model for growing its talent pool. Based on the fundamentals of diversity, equity, and inclusion, the program at UW Health, in southcentral Wisconsin, is growing the skilled workforce they need through an innovative use of community partnerships and home-grown internship and training programs.

Bridgett Willey, Director of Allied Health Education and Career Pathways at UW Health recently joined Tremaine Maebry and 31 attendees for the second installment of the MTWC Diversity and Inclusion Virtual Roundtable Summer Series. In the roundtable, they discussed successful strategies for building a successful Diversity, Equity and Inclusion program and how Willey’s experiences in healthcare can be applied within the Transportation industry. A recording of this roundtable discussion is available on the MTWC website.

Across several sectors, filling positions in the Midwest is difficult and getting harder. That is exactly what UW Health is experiencing as a healthcare system comprised of five hospitals and just under 200 clinics with 16,000 employees. Filling positions in the state is difficult due to high rates of retirement among baby boomers combined with a very low unemployment rate of just 2.6%. UW Health discovered, however, that there is a rich untapped resource among the area’s communities of color, where unemployment rates are currently higher.

About four years ago, Willey started a program to give underrepresented high school and college students an opportunity to explore about 60 in-demand, healthcare careers. The program is called HOPE, which stands for Health Occupations and Professions Exploration. From the first class, interest and attendance in HOPE offerings far exceeded expectations. To date, about 1500 high school and college students from all over the state have participated.

Based on the success of that program, Willey made a proposal to senior leadership to form a new department. Leadership agreed and Allied Health Education and Career Pathways was formed a year and a half ago. With the formation of a department, the programs received a sustainable source of funding that replaced the less reliable grant funds used at their launch.

Since then, the department’s programs have expanded into working not only with youth but also with adults who are underemployed or unemployed. The programs provide short-term training and educational sessions, usually in partnership with a community organization such as The Urban League of Greater Madison, Centro Hispano of Dane County, or Operation Fresh Start, to provide people with the training they need to be successful as they come into various entry-level positions at the hospitals and clinics.

Making the business case for cultural competence at UW Health was key to gaining buy-in for the new department. It’s important for the organization to have a staff with a similar demographic makeup to the patient populations that it serves.

“Over the last couple of years, we have increased our diversity especially at our entry-level careers at the hospital. Now we’re focusing our efforts on creating more opportunities and paths for folks to get into the professional and technical levels of the organization,” said Willey.

Other key factors that have helped gain buy-in include the involvement of subject matter experts from throughout the organization in all aspects of the department’s work. From collecting information about careers and developing training materials to working directly with the students at HOPE events, people are asked to share their knowledge and expertise for the benefit of the program. It’s also important to bring in someone well versed in education who can help not only develop the materials but also help make the careers look interesting to young people. They have a website at www.hopemadisonwi.org that is used extensively by the students during the HOPE events.

With just four career pathways coordinators plus herself, Willey points out that it’s extremely important to be able to work with limited resources and be willing to constantly innovate and change what the team is doing.

“As a small team, we’re always working at capacity. Before we can try something new we have to take something out. So, we’re always in a state of change and growth,” she said.

Willey also admits that her personal experiences probably helped make her especially adept at implementing workforce development programs. When she was about 11, Willey saw her father’s career change take her family from living at the poverty line to the middle class. This experience stuck with her and taught her important lessons about how young people choose their future careers. She later built on this experience when choosing her own professional trajectory, and eventually used all of these experiences to build the HOPE program.

Her early exposure to healthcare came from her dad when he came out of the Navy. After serving four years as an EMT, when he rejoined civilian life, her father’s skills were not transferrable into a certification or a specific job role. So, he was working at a low wage at the VA hospital in Kansas City, as a Patient Care Assistant. While there, a cardiologist offered him the opportunity to learn on the job to operate a new technology, diagnostic medical ultrasound, which was used to look at patients’ hearts and blood vessels. With this new training and new career path, Willey’s father vastly improved his family’s financial situation.

“That, to me was incredible,” said Willey. “Later, when I went to college I started out as a Journalism major. I quickly realized that I was going to have student loans and that there was only a thirty percent chance I would even get accepted into the Journalism school. I decided that I better find a better career.” Willey went on to pursue a career in healthcare, starting with on-the-job EKG Technician training.

“Careers tend to run in families,” Willey points out. “When I tell the story of my dad to the kids in HOPE, it tends to make a big impact. Many of them have experienced poverty or experienced a parent working two or three jobs just trying to make ends meet,” said Willey. “Whereas, a lot of careers in healthcare, with very little formal education, can be extremely lucrative and support families.”

A recent article in the Wisconsin State Journal highlighted the student experience through the summer HOPE internship program.

For more information about the MTWC D&I Virtual Roundtable or if you have any questions please contact Maria Hart at maria.hart@wisc.edu.

National Center Helps Stakeholders Grow Construction Workforce with Resources for Strengthening Participation of Women in Apprenticeship

Working simultaneously with unions, contractors, women, and students, the  National Center for Women’s Equity in Apprenticeship and Employment is helping the construction industry grow the skilled workforce it needs by incorporating and retaining more women. One way the center is doing this is by bringing registered apprenticeship to bear as a proven strategy to grow and retain talent, according to Jayne Vellinga, Executive Director of Chicago Women in Trades, the parent organization of the center.

By providing evidence-based strategies and practical applications, the center supports employers in their efforts to build and implement apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs and then provides ongoing support to ensure that more women successfully complete their apprenticeships and launch long-term careers in their trade.

Midwest stakeholders including registered apprenticeship sponsors, training providers, and workforce development professionals can benefit first hand from the center’s expertise by participating in the upcoming Building Women’s Equity in Apprenticeship and Employment: An Institute for Practitioners and Employers, which will be held Friday, October 13, 2017 before the start of the Women Build Nations conference in Chicago.

The multi-pronged approach taken by the center is a reflection of several factors influencing the availability of skilled laborers today.

“If I’m a contractor, I want to find some women that I’m going to cultivate and treat like an integral part of my workforce so when I bid on a project that has a female hiring goal, I already have a great skilled person that I know produces for me,” said Vellinga.

Bringing women into these careers is good for the employers but it’s also an issue of equity, according to Vellinga. In construction jobs, which have been traditionally held by male workers, a new employee with a high school diploma and no work experience will enter the field at nearly $20 per hour. In five years, that person could earn nearly $50 per hour. By contrast, roles with similar educational requirements in traditionally female jobs, such as Nurse’s Assistant, will enter the workforce at around $12 per hour and only increase their earning potential by a few dollars in five years.

A couple of years ago, the center received a Women in Apprenticeship and Nontraditional Occupations grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to set up a technical assistance center for the Midwest. The center was one of three grantees spanning the county. With this grant, the center has begun to expand their reach and bring technical assistance across the region.

The center works with their national partners, primarily unions, to develop technical assistance plans, provide training, help decipher regulations, and develop best practices and case studies. They provide employers assistance on issues as varied as recruitment and retention to domestic violence.

“It’s also about career choice,” explains Vellinga. “Not every woman is a nurturer. Not every woman without a college degree wants to work with children or old people or be a waitress. Women have wide range of interests whether they’ve had an opportunity to go to college or not. It’s important to have that level of career choice and the earning power that goes with jobs that have been traditionally male.”

In 2016, the center received an additional grant from the Department of Labor targeting equity partners. The center was named the lead agency for a consortium of 10 organizations around the country. This consortium includes virtually every funded tradeswoman organization in the country and works with the national Registered Apprenticeship program. The consortium assists apprenticeship program sponsors with their equal employment opportunity planning. They provide tools, guidance, technical assistance, training, and other services in support of building equity for women in apprenticeship. Today, women make up only 15% of all apprenticeships, and in the construction field, the numbers are much worse at just 3% nationwide.

An improving economy and projected workforce shortages are helping to spur momentum for women in trades. Vellinga also points out that certain incentive programs work exceptionally well to motivate positive hiring practices. The Illinois Tollway system, for example, offers earned credit to contractors who bid on construction projects for each woman or minority that is hired. What makes this program especially beneficial is that it also awards credit for retaining these employees. “So, if you’ve done a good job with your workforce, you don’t necessarily have to be the lowest bidder to be successful in getting a contract,” said Vellinga. “What I like about this system is that it rewards you for what you’ve done, not just what you say you’re going to do.”

In her 17 years at Chicago Women in Trades, Vellinga has seen significant improvement in the work environment for women in construction. As an example, she tells about one of the plumber’s unions she works with in the Chicago area. Just four years ago, this group had just two women in their apprenticeship program. However, with a change in mindset among the union’s leadership, they started bringing more women into the program. Today, they have 32 women in their apprenticeship program and are also supporting a robust mentorship program.

“Last year, for the first time in this local’s history, they sent women as delegates to the union association convention. And not just one woman, but three,” said Vellinga.  “These numbers are going to make the difference. You can’t ignore, refuse to train or create an untenable work environment for an important percentage of your workforce.”

For more information on the center or on the Women Build Nations conference, contact Jayne Vellinga by email at jvellinga@cwit2.org.

Highway Maintenance Engineering as a Case Study for Growing the Transportation Workforce

Transportation infrastructure in the Midwest encompasses all modes from inland waterways to bike paths. Midwesterners continue to rely on and demand more from their investments in the past.  Keeping up requires innovation and for that we need creative thinkers interested in transportation asset management. As we celebrate National Transportation Week, we have a chance to reflect on what the Midwest can do to develop the transportation talent that we need to meet the needs of this sector moving forward.

The discipline of Highway Maintenance Engineering is an excellent model for exploring how to grow talent in transportation. Like many transportation occupations, jobs responsible for maintenance could be made more attractive with an image makeover. Yes, filling pot holes and removing road kill may be the most visible responsibilities, but we entrust highway maintenance workers with far more.  Highway maintenance workers are responsible for keeping the infrastructure in a state of good repair and at the same time keeping the adjacent air, soil, wildlife, plant life and water clean and healthy.

In order to improve the image of this occupation, there needs to be a change in mindset, both internally within the highway maintenance organizations as well as externally in the eyes of potential employees.

Challenges facing the highway maintenance workforce are the same as those facing transportation occupations across the board, making highway maintenance a good model for piloting strategies to address these challenges. For these reasons, the Midwest Transportation Workforce Center has chosen to focus on Highway Maintenance Engineering as part of the National Transportation Career Pathways Initiative.

The responsibilities of highway maintenance organizations are changing rapidly and finding the workforce with the skills and experience needed to execute these tasks will require a concerted effort.

For various reasons, the majority of attention around roadways has traditionally emphasized new construction, with less attention paid to maintenance. Maintenance jobs incorporated primarily tasks such as mowing and filling pot holes. Accordingly, the image of the average highway maintenance worker is not a glamorous one, to be sure, among the general public.

Today, departments of transportation are changing their mindset from construction thinking to maintenance thinking. They are assessing roadways across the entire lifecycle from construction through the end of its life expectancy. These assessments are including not just the costs of materials to build a new road but also the costs of maintaining the road surface and rights of way as well as well as the harder-to-quantify costs, such as the environmental impacts of all the construction, design, and maintenance practices.

In addition to this mindset change, highway maintenance is seeing an increasing use of new and emerging technologies such as computerization, drones, and geographic information systems (GIS). People entering this discipline will need experience with these technologies. These are some of the exciting things happening in transportation and we need career pathways to tell students about such opportunities.

Another trend affecting highway maintenance is the move toward automated vehicles. While this technology is still very new—it may not be clear exactly what form automation will take over the coming decades—it is undeniable that automation will change how our roadways are used. This will certainly change how we maintain our highways and rights of way.

Trends pushing maintenance thinking to the forefront include an increasing understanding of the environmental impacts and the impacts on human health of transportation. These impacts include road dust (from tire, brake pad, and road surface wear) as well as water runoff. Mitigation of these impacts are increasingly the responsibility of highway maintenance organizations. Whereas, in the past, maintenance considerations may have included driver visibility and safety, today’s maintenance practices must also take into account such things as the welfare of beneficial pollinators or the control of invasive plant species.

As highway maintenance organizations are charged with more responsibilities, the people doing this work will need to be more highly skilled and bring a broader range of technical expertise to the table.

Fortunately, the next generation of employees is excited about environmental sustainability. Aligning the needs of this discipline with the up-and-coming workforce is quite feasible. Young people today are interested in the holistic stewardship that will be required by this profession.

Like so many occupations in transportation Highway Maintenance Engineering careers need to be rebranded to reflect that these jobs are becoming more highly skilled, highly valued, and better compensated. Internally, highway departments will need to adopt a maintenance mindset. Externally, the next generation of transportation workers need to be shown a new image of highway maintenance.

Visit the MTWC Highway Maintenance Engineering Career Pathways Initiative page to keep abreast of this initiative.

To learn more about the National Transportation Career Pathways Initiative, visit the NNTW website.

About the Author

Dr. Adams is a civil and engineering professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has more than 25 years of research experience and is an expert in freight policy research. Dr. Adams also led the 21st Century Workforce Development Summit, one in a series of regional summits used to identify needs, set goals, strategies, and best practices across various transportation career paths. The regional summits culminated in the National Transportation Workforce Summit, which Dr. Adams also co-led in the spring of 2012 in Washington, DC.

Michigan Construction Workforce Campaign Sets Foundation

One year ago, MichiganConstruction.com was launched to promote the construction industry. Started and funded by construction employers, Michigan’s premiere construction branding campaign has generated over 34-million media impressions delivered to television broadcast media markets and social media platforms throughout Michigan.

“Our focus is on Michigan’s construction industry,” says Dan DeGraaf, CEO of the Michigan Concrete Association who spearheads the MichiganConstruction campaign. He sees that the only way for the construction industry to compete for the best-and-brightest, is to unify in an effort to show people how cool it is to work in construction.

MichiganConstruction­­ produced three TV commercials that does just that.  The latest shows how kids can go from video gaming directly to construction.

Heather Smith, Marketing Director of the MichiganConstruction campaign says, “The trick is capturing interest generated from the ads and connecting those job seekers with our construction employers.”  This campaign drives and captures interest with cutting edge inbound digital marketing tools utilizing branded web-based and social media technology.

The MichiganConstruction campaign paved the way for the creation of the Michigan Construction Foundation.

Formed as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, the Construction Foundation seeks to promote a positive image for Michigan’s construction industry to attract, recruit, educate, train and support new workers.

Brindley Byrd now serves as Executive Director of the Michigan Construction Foundation.  Working with their employer partners,  MichiganConstruction designed a framework to build an effective organization, serving as an industry intermediary, to integrate and align Michigan’s workforce development system.

“Michigan’s construction industry offers such opportunity for people to get good paying jobs,” Byrd says thinking about why he is excited to be part of this effort.  “MichiganConstruction easily connects job seekers with the many construction job, education and training options across the state.” Today’s construction industry needs workers with the right skills, qualifications and character to build a better Michigan.

For more information, contact Heather Smith at heather@MichiganConstruction.com.

Midwest Take Note: St. Louis is Taking the Lead with New Partnership Model for Highway Construction Workforce Development

In a ground-breaking strategy, transportation organizations and workforce development boards are coming together to share expertise and resources to grow the transportation workforce. As part of a national initiative, St. Louis, Missouri will lead the way for the Midwest as one of a dozen sites selected to pilot this model across the country.

This step represents a remarkable opportunity to refine the Midwest Strategy—a cohesive approach across our states for growing the transportation talent pipeline. As other industries have built successful programs in collaboration with their state and local workforce development boards (WDBs), the transportation industry can draw on these models and emulate similar partnerships. Even as the project was being announced, additional Midwestern cities and states are following St. Louis’ lead to explore new ways to build partnership and collaboration across agencies and with industry partners.

Workforce development boards bring a wealth of resources to such collaborations, excelling at building community connections, building business networks, and acting regionally. Likewise, the transportation sector brings strong industry leadership to the table together with domain expertise in select areas such as certification and licensing and mid-career recruitment.

St. Louis is one of a dozen sites across the United States selected for the Highway Construction Workforce Development Pilot program. This program is a partnership between the Federal Highway Administration, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, Associated General Contractors of America, American Road & Transportation Builders Association, the US Department of Labor-Employment & Training Administration, and state and local workforce development boards.

The project was created to address the challenge of developing a skilled and diverse workforce. Project partners will evaluate methods and processes to close skills gaps in highway construction and to draw qualified applicants into these occupations. Work will also be done to identify, train and place individuals in high-demand highway construction occupations.

The pilot locations include select cities and states. The cities are Pittsburgh, Atlanta, St. Louis, Dallas, Denver, and Los Angeles. The states are Connecticut, Rhode Island, Alabama, South Dakota, Arizona, and Idaho.

SLATE, the St. Louis Agency on Training and Employment, is the Workforce Development Board that is identifying constructions projects and convening local stakeholders. The MTWC will provide updates as the St. Louis working group identifies new processes.

About the Author

Maria Hart is a freight transportation researcher and a transportation planner by trade. Hart manages all center activities including stakeholder engagement and outreach strategies. She also curates the transportation workforce resource clearinghouse database. Hart applies social science approaches to center activities, including such methods as collective impact, community building, and communities of practice, in order to inspire conversations around transportation workforce development that drive innovation.

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.

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.

Clearinghouse Puts Transportation Resources at Your Fingertips

The Midwest Transportation Workforce Center (MTWC) recently launched its new, searchable database of transportation workforce resources. With over 1300 entries, the search feature is accessed by clicking on “Clearinghouse” in the top menu of the MTWC website. Here, you will find listings of a variety of resources including pre-apprenticeship programs, internships, educational opportunities, professional development opportunities, scholarships, summer programs, and workforce development initiatives across the nine-state MTWC region, and beyond.

While the website, with its varied content devoted to growing the transportation pipeline, is a first stop for people seeking transportation workforce information, the indexing of resources in this new database will help users find what they are looking for more readily.

The Clearinghouse is a resource for educators looking for transportation curricula or programs, industry or workforce professionals looking for successful practices, or parents who are looking for summer programs for their budding transportation professional. So, if you are looking for Supply Chain programs in the region, or K-12 programs that target girls, we can help.

“Our vision for a Clearinghouse is that it will help us capture and define the collective work we are doing in this region. These transportation resources span the continuum from K-12 career awareness through professional development across all transportation occupations. With this database, we can determine where the gaps are and where we need to improve career pathways.  As our communities prepare for the future of the transportation workforce, this kind of information will form a fundamental baseline for these planning discussions. We will be ready,” said Maria Hart, MTWC Program Manager.

The MTWC website is a one-stop for all things related to the transportation talent pipeline in the Midwest. With MTWC, you can connect with your peers, share best practices, read about others’ successes, and help define and develop the Midwest strategy for transportation talent development.

Please click here to explore the most comprehensive compilation of the region’s transportation workforce development initiatives, programs, and resources.

Make Sure Your Resources Are Listed

The MTWC Clearinghouse is always growing and improving. This launch is only the beginning. Help us build this network. To get your resource listed, please complete the MTWC Clearinghouse submission form. Or, send information along with a website link by email to Maria Hart at maria.hart@wisc.edu.

Illinois Workforce Innovation Board Developing Trucking Industry Best Practices

The Illinois Workforce Innovation Board reconvened its Transportation, Distribution and Logistics (TDL) Task Force in the interest of addressing the widespread truck driver shortage and retention problem. The Task Force, which began meetings in October 2016, is developing and will recommend data-driven strategies derived from best practices in training and industry to address root causes of the shortage.

The Illinois TDL Task Force welcomes any ideas or practices that you wish to share from your state. Please email Maria Hart, MTWC Program Manager and TDL Task Force Member, at maria.hart@wisc.edu by February 15, 2017.

Seven Things You Didn’t Know About Transportation Apprenticeships

Apprenticeship offers an “earn-while-you-learn” pathway to career development for people new to the workforce. Industries, such as heavy construction, have been successfully utilizing apprenticeship to develop talent and maintain a robust workforce for many decades.

More recently, a variety of new approaches and innovations have changed what apprenticeship programs look like and have expanded the number and variety of job roles for which apprenticeship can be applied. This is especially true for the Transportation industry.

Meeting the needs of a rapidly evolving industry has been challenging for today’s employers in the Transportation industry. Business leaders are helping to identify talent gaps and build resources, like apprenticeship programs, to grow the pipeline of talent entering the Transportation workforce.

“Transportation Industry apprenticeships are increasing in demand, thanks to the competent training and mentoring fostered by employer partnerships, with community colleges and technical institutions leading the way,” said Jay O’Connor, Public Service Administrator at the Illinois Department of Employment Security.

(1) This is not your grandfather’s apprenticeship.

Dr. Thomas Ritchie, Program Manager with the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), notes that the apprenticeship paradigm has changed drastically in recent years. “It is not your grandfather’s apprenticeship,” he said. But, as Ritchie also noted at the October 2016 Workforce Development Summit of the Federal Transit Administration, work needs to be done to change the perception of what apprentices are. Today, apprenticeship programs cover a wide range of non-traditional industries, with Transportation being one of the newcomers to the field.

“Apprenticeships are experiencing a modern renaissance in America because the earn-while-learn model is a win-win proposition for workers looking to punch their ticket to the middle-class and for employers looking to grow and thrive in our modern global economy.” — U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez

(2) Companies that sponsor apprentices receive measurable improvements to their bottom line.

Apprenticeship is a proven talent development strategy that answers the skills gap, builds loyalty, reduces turn-over rates, and helps increase productivity, according to Dr. Rebecca Lake, Dean of Workforce and Economic Development at Harper College. Employers that utilize apprentices report higher productivity, higher retention rates and a substantial return on investment.

“The Registered Apprenticeship program we have developed ensures that the transition into new careers n trucking is smooth. It has enabled us to attract and retain safe and productive drivers.” ~ Duane Boswell, Vice president of driver recruiting, TMC Transportation.

(3) There is training and support available in every state to develop and grow apprenticeship programs.

apprenticeshipusa

The U.S. Department of Labor awarded the American Apprenticeship Grants totaling $175 million in 2015 to expand apprenticeship programs. Then, in October 2016, an additional $50.5 million in grants were awarded to help 37 states expand apprenticeship programs.

An example of state-level support can be seen at the Illinois Department of Employment Security, which supports ALL bona fide apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs. There are over 120 partnerships listed on their Apprenticeship web sites at for job seekers, and for employers and trades.

There are also opportunities to offset the costs of running an apprenticeship program. Grants are available through the U.S. Department of Education and the GI Bill Program. President Obama set a goal of 700,000 Registered Apprenticeships in the U.S. by 2020, and currently there are about 500,000.

For information on resources available read, “The Federal Resources Playbook for Registered Apprenticeship.”

(4) Membership has its benefits for sponsors of Registered Apprenticeship programs.

Any employer with a Registered Apprenticeship program can be part of their local workforce investment board, which sets policy and determines where funding goes.

(5) Apprenticeship programs can be sponsored by Community Colleges.

Select community colleges have become sponsors of Registered Apprenticeship programs in the U.S. and more are following suit. This emerging model reduces the administrative burden and streamlines the process for all of the participating companies.

“It’s win-win-win,” said Melissa MacGregor, Manager of Workforce Grants at Harper College in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, IL. “The students get training and certification and have no debt when they graduate. The companies get young employees with the skills the company is specifically seeking. And, the community colleges create partnerships with industry and attract more students that they wouldn’t otherwise have enrolled; very desirable students, who stay for the duration and complete what they’ve started.”

For more information about options available to community colleges, visit the Registered Apprenticeship College Consortium website.

(6) Mentoring an apprentice raises employee morale.

Not only does apprenticeship facilitate the transfer of knowledge from experienced employees to the apprentices, it also has been shown to boost workplace morale.
According to Lake, apprenticeship works particularly well when an employee who is nearing retirement is assigned as a mentor to an apprentice. The two-to-three-year timeframe of an apprenticeship allows that important knowledge transfer to take place before the older employee is lost to retirement.

But, beyond being an investment in maintaining organizational knowledge, employers also find that it fosters employee engagement by demonstrating to the mentor that his or her experience is valued. Further, mentoring is an effective way to instill the company mission among the employees, since mentors transmit values as well as expertise.

(7) Transportation apprenticeships span a wide range of careers.

Transportation apprenticeships can be found in:

Maritime

Careers in this area include such occupations as Marine Electrical, Maritime Welding, Marine Mechanical, and Marine Engineering.
“The registered apprenticeship pathway is the gold standard for the shipbuilding, repair, maintenance and modernization sector of the maritime and transportation industry,” according to Barbara Murray, Director and Principal Investigator for the National Science Foundation Southeast Maritime and Transportation (SMART) Center. “Apprentices leave college with a certificate or degree debt-free, with valuable industry credentials, on-the-job experience, and years of earning full-time pay and benefits. It’s an incomparable route for students to start on a great career path and for employers to grow their own workforce.”
One example includes the Paul Hall Center for Maritime Training and Education, which, since 2003, has used a Registered Apprenticeship program to prepare over 3,000 U.S. Mariners. This is the largest program of its kind for entry-level seafarers in the U.S. Participants who complete the training and graduate in good standing from the program are guaranteed jobs as Merchant Marines. Students may also receive college credit recommendations for successfully completing certain sanctioned courses. In addition to licenses and post-secondary credit, the program also offers a complete high school equivalency program (GED), adult basic education and study skills, and English as a second language (ESOL).

Logistics

Harper College in Illinois is launching a Registered Apprenticeship program in Supply Chain Management in January 2017. Apprentices will work three days a week and attend classes two days a week. After two-and-a-half years, the apprentice earns an A.A.S. degree in Manufacturing Technology with a Specialization in Supply Chain Management-Logistics with up to six industry recognized credentials from the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals.

Trucking

Hiring military Veterans is a focus of J.B. Hunt, a company that has committed to employing 10,000 Veterans by 2020. As a Registered Apprenticeship Program provider, the company offers the CDL-A Hiring Program and the Military Finisher Program. The first caters to Veterans who are interested in pursuing professional driving as their civilian career, while the latter is a fast track program for those who have experience driving heavy equipment during their service time.
Through the CDL-A and Military Finisher programs, Veterans are paid a stable income while they complete orientation, driving school, and behind-the-wheel training. They assume their responsibilities at either a local or regional Dedicated Contract Services or Intermodal fleet. As a participant in the 12-month J. B. Hunt National Apprenticeship Program, one may also be eligible to receive a GI Bill Monthly Housing Allowance (MHA) payment from the VA in addition to his or her paycheck.

Heavy Construction- Operating Engineers

Apprenticeship for construction careers building transportation infrastructure have been around for decades. Instruction leading to a journeyman credential can be offered at a community college or a union or non-union training facility.

Transit

Occupations in this area include Transit Coach Operator, Bus Maintenance, Rail Vehicle Maintenance, Elevator-Escalator Maintenance, and Signals Maintenance.

More apprentice opportunities are planned in this sector. Under the Transit Apprenticeship Initiative organized by the Transportation Learning Center, participating agencies will build or expand apprenticeship programs.

 

Apprenticeship provides industry leaders with a unique opportunity to directly influence and shape the future of their workforce. In a time when many industries are struggling with a diminishing talent pool due to attrition from retirement and a lack of visibility among new employees entering the workforce, new models of apprenticeship offer an ideal solution for transferring knowledge, growing career awareness, and attracting talent.