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Program To Focus on Career Pathways

Published: February 6, 2017

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Looking to garner interest from potential transportation professionals, the Southwest Transportation Workforce Center (SWTWC) at CSULB will lead a national career pathway demonstration program. As part of CSULB’s Center for International Trade and Transportation (CITT), SWTWC’s efforts will be supported by a $1.25 million Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) grant awarded in last fall, titled “Transportation Workforce Strategic Initiative (TWSI).”

“There’s not necessarily a shortage of workers in the areas we’re looking at throughout the transportation industry, but quite often, there’s a mismatch,” said Thomas O’Brien, SWTWC director and CITT executive director. “In some cases, good positions are going unfilled because there are no qualified applicants. So, it’s a matter of getting individuals interested and then into training programs that speak specifically to employment needs.”

SWTWC has partnered with the four other regional transportation workforce centers—in Montana, Wisconsin, Vermont and Tennessee—in forming the National Network for the Transportation Workforce (NNTW) on the TWSI.

The goal of career pathway demonstrations is to encourage students in the post-secondary education continuum to consider transportation careers. Demonstrations will provide insights from employers/professionals/experts in the field, with such interactions giving students an opportunity to learn about transportation careers and develop needed skills.

Under the grant, the SWTWC will launch a pilot career pathway demonstration program to focus on transportation planning careers. Lessons learned from that pilot program will inform the development of future career pathway demonstrations that address occupations in transportation in areas such as planning, as well as engineering, safety, operations and environment.

To develop targeted career pathways that address such occupations, the NNTW will work to create partnerships at technical schools, community colleges and universities throughout the country. This approach will address technical occupations requiring two-year degrees and non-degree certifications such as bus and truck mechanics, diesel engine specialists and heavy/tractor-trailer drivers. NNTW career pathways will also target occupations that require four-year and graduate degrees such as urban and regional planners, computer and information systems managers, civil engineers, surveyors and logisticians.

Throughout the life of the two-year grant, the NNTW team will work to identify diverse stakeholder/employer needs and then test the viability of pilot-scale efforts that leverage the strengths, resources and engagement of public- and private-sector employers and leaders in academia.

A key output from the national initiative will be the development of career pathway templates for critical transportation occupations that could be replicated in other parts of the country. Those templates would be used to implement curriculum at local schools and develop industry and academic working groups committed to addressing a range of transportation workforce skills and competencies.

“With multidisciplinary specialists, stakeholders from across the country and extensive labor market analysis, our national network team is uniquely positioned to carry out the goals of this strategic initiative,” O’Brien said. “Our career pathway demonstration programs will prepare future transportation professionals to develop industry competencies and move beyond disciplinary silos to address transportation workforce challenges throughout the nation.

“Our job is to look at the role of the university as a partner in the career pathway for these students,” he added. “We want to show how that can either lead to a full-time job after high school graduation or prepare them so that they can transition into either a two-year community college degree, a four-year degree certification program or an apprenticeship that allows them to be successful in the field.”