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.

Exponential Growth in Registered Apprenticeship in Transportation Fueled by Accelerator Activity and Industry Commitment

Registered apprenticeship programs are growing to meet the demands of the transportation sector. A powerful tool for companies to develop the talent they need to fill positions, apprenticeship is being adopted to address workforce gaps in a growing array of occupations. The U.S. Department of Labor funds intermediaries such as FASTPORT and TransPORTs to develop registered apprenticeship programs and expand the number of apprentices for employers in the transportation and logistics industry.

“I am currently working with a large supply chain exporter with 60 branches in the U.S. Their vice president reached out to us because he wants to use apprenticeship to build his workforce,” said Barbara Murray, TransPORTs Apprenticeship and Partnership Development Expert. “He said there are great supply chain programs out there and named a couple of universities. But, then he said the graduates of those programs have great theoretical knowledge but they don’t have any work experience so they really still can’t go to work.” Plus, Murray pointed out, it is at this point that new graduates often discover that the job is not a good fit.

Combine the career readiness that apprenticeship provides with the astoundingly high retention rates of 87-93% of employees who complete apprenticeship programs, and it is clear why more companies are turning to groups like TransPORTs and FASTPORTS, for assistance in getting new programs up and running for an increasing number of occupations.

Resources such as videos and the new SMART Maritime and Transportation Career Pathways and Occupations Toolkit are available to help spread the word about the growing number of maritime occupations available through registered apprenticeship.

“My role has been changing the face of what apprenticeship is. Those professional careers can all be done with apprenticeship. The only way to do that is have people understand what apprenticeship is,” said Murray. “There are so many open positions right now where the people applying don’t have the needed skills. There’s a mismatch. More can be done than just taking classes and sitting in a classroom. Actually taking relevant classes that are matched to the work that you’re doing; that’s the difference.”

Truck drivers are an in-demand group and accordingly, this was one of the earliest national training standards program developed.
“We now have nine national employer companies sponsoring registered apprenticeship programs. Through these there are currently 814 apprentices operating on the national standards with a truck driving apprenticeship,” said Dave Harrison, Executive Director of National Apprenticeship at FASTPORT.

One of the key boosts to apprenticeship has been the advent of national apprenticeship standards, which facilitate the expansion of programs across states and make it easier to replicate programs.

“In 2014 an idea was born and some of us in the industry started actually writing what is called the National Standard of Apprenticeship, even before anything was passed in legislation. We just believed it was going to happen,” said Harrison. “It’s just been since the middle of 2015 that we started getting engagement on national strategies. So, if you look at it, it’s not very old.”

Truck drivers and diesel mechanics are some of the most in-demand employees being developed through apprenticeship today.

But there has been a lot of growth in a short time. Since the beginning, Harrison points out the truck driver segment has experienced the greatest growth, because that’s the biggest area of need. Moving forward, other related occupations are beginning to catch up. These include occupations like diesel mechanic and fleet manager. FASTPORT currently has programs for eight occupations in this area.

Over the next two years, Harrison predicts explosive growth in apprentices joining programs for freight broker or cargo broker and related occupations. These occupations are increasingly important to the world economy “because they integrate everything, air, land, and sea,” said Harrison.

In maritime, employers around our nation’s ports have diverse workforce needs and the new occupations being pursued for apprenticeship reflect this diversity. “The hot jobs include electro-mechanical, welder, HVAC, crane operator, logistics associate, freight forwarder, and, most recently, graphic designer,” said Murray.

Currently in process, FASTPORT is working to co-sponsor a new registered apprenticeship program with the Transportation Intermediaries Association (TIA) to launch programs for freight brokers. With over 1700 employers as part of their association, this TIA program will quickly rival truck driver programs in terms of enrolled apprentices.

Harrison sites partnerships with industry as the driving factor for apprenticeship program successes. It is the industry connections which helps guide the best practices for reaching employers. One of the key activities they do is host accelerator events, often as part of national trade conferences. FASTPORT will be attending the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas, August 24-26. “This is a great event and I would encourage anyone interested in apprenticeship and the transportation industry to attend,” said Harrison.

“A lot of what we do is make it simpler and quicker for companies,” said Murray. She cites the U.S. Department of Labor’s commitment to the ApprenticeshipUSA program with contributing to their success by adding more people but not more administrative layers. “We have more people, more opportunities to work face-to-face with companies and turn their programs around more quickly,” she said.

To learn more about starting an apprenticeship program, contact Dave Harrison at dave.harrison@fastport.com or Barbara Murray at brmurray77@gmail.com.

Taking Hands-On Experiences on the Road Reaches More than Students

Employees with specific skills and a technical education are in demand in the transportation industry and this need is growing. Unfortunately, too few young people are being ushered toward transportation careers. Over the past decade, the nation’s K-12 educational systems have worked hard to deliver students to four-year degree programs at universities. This focus has greatly reduced the number of shop and hands-on technical classes, resulting in dwindling opportunities to expose students to the sorts of careers that drive the transportation industry today.

The Minnesota State Transportation Center of Excellence is determined to reverse this trend by providing young people with in-person, hands-on experiences, while demonstrating the value to parents, school administrators, industry representatives, and others. They are doing this with a new mobile outreach unit, a trailer decked out with stations for each transportation mode that is pulled by a truck. The trailer is outfitted with several pieces of equipment, creating hands-on stations where students, counselors, teachers, peers, and parents can participate in real activities that occur in transportation careers. These activities showcase the technology in the industry and help students develop passion for transportation careers.

“It’s one thing to put out a webinar, put out a newsletter, or tell someone about these careers,” said Chris Hadfield, Director of the Minnesota State Transportation Center of Excellence. But, he pointed out, it’s completely different when students and their parents visit the trailer and have that hands-on experience.

The mobile unit was used for the first time in early May at an event where high school students were competing to build fuel efficient miniature cars with lawn mower engines. The event hosted about 700 attendees and approximately 200-300 people walked through the trailer.

The Minnesota State Transportation Center of Excellence’s new mobile outreach unit is equipped with hands-on experiences representing each mode of transportation.

Inside, the center has designed an experience that promotes engagement with not just the students. School decision makers and parents, which the center refers to as influencers, are also targeted by the trailer.

“You have to have something to draw them in, the big trailer does that. Then you have to have industry partnerships,” said Hadfield. The goal is to have industry representatives from each transportation sector accompany the trailer at events. These industry volunteers work alongside center staff to greet people and talk about transportation jobs.

“We know that when we put an industry person in front of a school superintendent while they’re seeing students get engaged with the experience, that’s when we start to have real conversations about bringing their tech programs back, bringing their transportation programs back, maybe doing some cool internship or apprenticeship with us,” said Hadfield.

Involving industry representatives in outreach activities also serves to bring the transportation sectors together.

“Our idea is to have somebody from the trucking industry sitting side by side, two feet away from, somebody from the aviation sector and they’re side by side with somebody from the railroad and so on and so forth. We have these people mingling and they hadn’t realized before that they have something in common and now they realize that they do. And, common denominators mean that you should be collaborating and working together. There’s a lot more power in working together than alone in silos,” sad Hadfield.

Moving forward, the trailer will be made available to each of the center’s 26 partner post-secondary schools across the state. To utilize the trailer, the schools’ responsibilities include coordinating industry representatives to accompany the trailer, getting the high schools in their region on board, and arranging either a career fair on their own campus or to bring the trailer to a high school. The trailer is made available to center partners at no cost except to return the truck with a full tank of gas.
Brand new, the trailer is already booked for over 36 events over the course of the year. The success of the project so far is attributed to the collaboration of the schools, employers, and the center. Having representatives from the industry is really important toward the outreach goals of the center.

“If a post-secondary educator tells a secondary educator or a student about these careers, that’s nice and it works fine. But, when an industry person tells you, ‘By the way I’m hiring and right now I have people who work for me and this is what I pay them and this is what they do,’ the message has much more weight for a student, a parent or for a school superintendent,” said Hadfield.

About the Minnesota State Transportation Center of Excellence

The Minnesota State Transportation Center of Excellence is an innovative collaboration between Minnesota state colleges and universities and industry partners dedicated to educating and training workers for high-demand careers in the transportation industry.

The center was started in January of 2013 in response feedback from industry “listening sessions” held in 2012. Through the development of partnerships, the center supports workforce alignment in order to meet the current and future needs of the state’s transportation industry, not only in terms of the number of graduates but also in terms of the location of programs and the rate of degree attainment. The center coordinates the alignment of skills and knowledge needed by employers with what is taught in instructional programs while providing outreach to improve student awareness of employment markets.

Keeping Truck Drivers Past that Crucial First Year

What if companies could reliably prevent a particular type of loss that costs them millions of dollars annually? That’s exactly what trucking companies can do with some straightforward strategies in onboarding and retaining truck drivers. Industry data and our own research and surveys have helped Strategic Programs, Inc. identify ways to improve driver retention, especially within the first year.

Designed for Generation Z, Online Pre-Apprenticeship Offers Wisconsin Students a Fast Track to High-Demand Careers

In recognition of the importance of workforce issues to Wisconsin’s contractors, Wisconsin Operating Engineers partnered with Destinations Career Academy to develop the Operating Engineers Pre-Apprenticeship Program. This program prepares students for registered apprenticeship while still in high school. Hosted through the McFarland School district in south-central Wisconsin, this program is available through course options to students throughout the state.

Airport Rescue Fire Fighting (ARFF) lab

No Textbooks, Real-World Experiences Prepare Industry-Ready Graduates

A relatively new degree program at Kansas State Polytechnic is filling a significant talent gap and launching competitive applicants into the workforce. The Airport Management degree program was founded on the principal of teaching evidence-based and real-world practices so graduates will enter the workforce with experiences on par with what they would gain from years of on-the-job experience.

Logistics Internship Program Converts Students into Employees

Going into its third year, the Conexus Intern Program has grown from 30 companies employing 84 students in 2015 to more than 80 companies and more than 260 students expected in the summer of 2017. Conexus Indiana is a non-profit consortium of the state’s advanced manufacturers and logistics (AML) industries.

Engineering Community Involvement and Hands-On Activities Are Key Strengths of SLU’s Summer Transportation Institute

While many of the parents who sent their high schoolers to Saint Louis University’s Summer Transportation Institute in July may like to see the camp extended to two weeks, this program will continue to provide a one-week experience, packed with daily hands-on activities, to two different groups of students again in 2017.

“We would love to offer the camp as two-week sessions, but, with our current resources, these two, one-week sessions are the only way to serve the maximum number of students,” said camp director, Jalil Kianfar, PhD, Assistant Professor of Civil Engineering at Parks College of Engineering, Aviation, and Technology. Having successfully completed the second year of this program at SLU, Kianfar looks forward to building on the tradition again next year by leveraging what makes the program strong. Read more

Community College Sponsored Apprenticeships Fill the Talent Pipeline without all the Paperwork

In January, students will be sitting down for their first class of Supply Chain Management 101, part of the curriculum of the newly launched Logistics/Supply Chain Management Registered Apprenticeship program at Harper College in Palatine, Illinois. The next day, the students will go to work where they will start applying their classroom-acquired knowledge to the real-world applications provided by the companies that employ them.

In the spring of 2019, these students will graduate with an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree in Manufacturing Technology with a specialization in Supply Chain Management – Logistics. Additionally, they will have acquired up to seven industry recognized credentials earned through the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP) and a Department of Labor (DoL) certification that they are fully qualified for their occupation. At the same time, the companies, having paid the students’ wages and tuition throughout this process, will gain highly qualified employees ready to hit the ground running with a specialized understanding of how the principals are applied at their organization. Read more