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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.

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.

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.

Events

National Career Pathways Network Conference 2017

“Career Pathways: Gateway to the Future”

The 2017 conference will be held in St. Louis at the beautiful Hyatt Regency at the Arch. All sessions will take place in the hotel. The main conference will be Thursday and Friday, October 26–27. Conference strands will be based on the Ten Components of a Program of Study and Career Pathways Toolkit: An Enhanced Guide and Workbook for System Development. Preconference workshops (Wednesday, October 25) will address topics such as Career Pathways Leadership Certification, Employer-Education Partnerships, and Counseling.

The conference will focus on Career Pathways implementation at the state and local levels. The conference’s 1000+ attendees will consist of a broad cross-section of stakeholders comprising secondary and postsecondary educators, workforce development professionals, and employers.

We are excited to be hosting the conference in St. Louis for the first time. The city’s iconic 630-ft. Gateway Arch, built in the 1960s, honors the early 19th-century explorations of Lewis and Clark and America’s westward expansion in general. Very appropriate as career pathways expands to include more and more stakeholders.

There’s plenty to do including mueseums, cultural venues, restaurants, and cafes. Shopping includes St. Louis Union Station which was once the largest and busiest passenger rail terminal in the world. Today it has been repurposed as a lively mixed-use marketplace with more than 85 retail stores and restaurants. Attractions include the St. Louis Walk of Fame on Delmar Boulevard and Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site. Remains of the largest and most sophisticated prehistoric city north of Mexico are yours to explore at this site.

The NCPN conference is one of the best professional development opportunities in the country, offering 130+ breakouts, a variety of preconference workshops, keynote speakers, networking opportunities, and an exhibit hall showcasing the latest products and services in career technical education. We hope you’ll make plans to attend!