5
Data and Analysis Needs

As noted in the preceding chapters, transportation agencies are struggling with their human resource efforts at a basic level, and most lack the fundamental tools needed to determine their future agency workforce needs. Few state transportation agencies have yet tied their staffing plans to a strategic plan, identified their core competency needs, or undertaken a systematic analysis of the gaps between their workforce needs and staff competencies; the same is true of most transit agencies. Transportation agencies would benefit significantly from more quantitative analyses and assessments of their workforce issues. However, such analyses require considerably more agency-level data than are currently available. Key transportation workforce data needs and potential topics for quantitatively based assessments and research are briefly described in the following sections.1

KEY DATA NEEDS

There are many opportunities for improved data collection and analysis to support workforce development activities. For example, despite recent and ongoing studies, the data available on agency skill needs, job categories, employee educational background, and employee job skills and on transportation agency employment by

1

This chapter was added to the report as a result of several reviewer comments and suggestions.



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The Workforce Challenge: Recruiting, Training, and Retaining Qualified Workers for Transportation and Transit agencies 5 Data and Analysis Needs As noted in the preceding chapters, transportation agencies are struggling with their human resource efforts at a basic level, and most lack the fundamental tools needed to determine their future agency workforce needs. Few state transportation agencies have yet tied their staffing plans to a strategic plan, identified their core competency needs, or undertaken a systematic analysis of the gaps between their workforce needs and staff competencies; the same is true of most transit agencies. Transportation agencies would benefit significantly from more quantitative analyses and assessments of their workforce issues. However, such analyses require considerably more agency-level data than are currently available. Key transportation workforce data needs and potential topics for quantitatively based assessments and research are briefly described in the following sections.1 KEY DATA NEEDS There are many opportunities for improved data collection and analysis to support workforce development activities. For example, despite recent and ongoing studies, the data available on agency skill needs, job categories, employee educational background, and employee job skills and on transportation agency employment by 1 This chapter was added to the report as a result of several reviewer comments and suggestions.

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The Workforce Challenge: Recruiting, Training, and Retaining Qualified Workers for Transportation and Transit agencies level of education and by specific skill are scarce. Moreover, there is no documentation of the labor requirements of public transportation agencies by job category or how these requirements compare with the needs of private employers in the transportation sector. There are few data on wage trends for public and private transportation agencies and companies or on wage differences between public and private organizations and across job categories. Aside from anecdotal evidence, information about the mobility of workers between the two sectors is limited. Such information would be helpful in assessing the capacity of the private sector to absorb more work from public agencies and the extent to which more contracting out shifts workforce issues from the public to the private sector. A better understanding of the different labor needs across comparable job categories within all transportation agencies and across different job categories in agencies of the same type would also be desirable. The aging of the workforce is having considerable impact on transportation agencies, as well as many other components of the public sector. The retirements of a large number of their senior managers are impending, and many transportation agencies may not have an adequate number of skilled middle managers to replace those leaving the workforce. Moreover, the agencies must reexamine how the departure of experienced managers affects the skill sets the agencies need. An in-depth analysis of how retirements are affecting the agencies and how agencies are addressing the issue would be useful. Information about the extent to which the stock of civil engineers is changing would be useful. While data indicate that only about 10 percent of offers to civil engineering graduates come from government and nonprofit organizations, it would be useful to know more about the numbers of civil engineers leaving the transportation workforce or moving from civil engineering to another occupation and why these moves are made. More information on contracting out, especially on the portion of agency budgets contracted out for specific categories, would be useful in analyzing the need for more contract administration

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The Workforce Challenge: Recruiting, Training, and Retaining Qualified Workers for Transportation and Transit agencies specialists as well as what kinds of technical expertise the agencies must retain. AREAS FOR ADDITIONAL ANALYSIS Several areas of analysis could prove beneficial to transportation agencies as they address their future workforce needs. The following are key among them: skills standards, training effectiveness, and agency practices. Skills Standards It would be useful to examine how skills standards and certification of skills in a variety of occupations can help meet industry workforce needs, whether developing a limited number of portable skill credentials would be useful, and at what level (federal or state) the skills standards should be developed to achieve credibility for and widespread use of the standards. As a recent Federal Highway Administration international scanning tour showed, some countries emphasize apprenticeship programs for many job categories (FHWA 2003). More information on the effectiveness of these programs and their training systems in providing needed workers and job ladders for operators and maintenance staff would be useful. Training Effectiveness There is little specific information about the effectiveness and benefits of today’s training mechanisms for the transportation workforce in meeting current skill needs. Research and demonstration projects involving different kinds of agencies with similar training needs could supply the basis for answers to these questions. The committee believes that more can be achieved with public– private initiatives for developing training modules (both work-based and curriculum-based) than currently is the case. As noted previously, despite the barriers to joint initiatives, there are examples where they

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The Workforce Challenge: Recruiting, Training, and Retaining Qualified Workers for Transportation and Transit agencies have been overcome, and these examples need to be examined more closely for broader application. Agency Practices The current joint Federal Highway Administration–American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials effort under way to document and assess innovative practices that agencies are adopting to help meet their workforce needs in recruiting, retention, training, and succession management provides a basis for additional assessments across a wider range of transportation agencies. Such assessments can benefit both agencies and the private sector. Finally, transportation agencies can examine how well they are doing in human resource practices by using a tool like the Human Capital Capability Scorecard or a similar proven technique (Bassi et al. 2003). REFERENCES Abbreviation FHWA Federal Highway Administration Bassi, L., K. McGraw, and D. McMurrer. 2003. Beyond Quarterly Earnings: Using Measurement to Create Sustainable Growth. Human Capital Capability, Inc., Feb. FHWA. 2003. European Practices in Transportation Workforce Development: Results of an AASHTO–FHWA Scanning Tour. Washington, D.C.