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The Workforce Challenge: Recruiting, Training, and Retaining Qualified Workers for Transportation and Transit agencies APPENDIX G Attracting People to Transportation Careers Although the committee focused primarily on the issues that surface transportation agencies face in recruiting, training, and retaining the transportation workforce, it recognizes the importance of ensuring that a sufficient number of young people are interested in pursuing the training and education needed to join the transportation workforce. An earlier study examined how public agencies, private organizations, and professional associations can promote awareness of and interest in a professional activity and help guide and retain qualified students in the educational path needed to participate in the profession (Mason et al. 1992). The study focused on civil engineering careers and presented a model for awareness, retention, and curriculum that is useful today for developing programs to attract people to transportation careers (see Figure G-1). Candidate action plans aimed at the entire range of grade levels, from kindergarten through college, were also prepared. Summary reports from both the Minnesota Transportation Workforce Summit in 2000 and the National Transportation Workforce Summit in 2002 noted the need to raise awareness about transportation careers (Henderson Associates 2000; FHWA 2002). Many organizations in the transportation industry, public and private, support youth-oriented outreach activities. Many transportation industry employees—representing their employers or professional, fraternal, and union associations and societies—participate in these activities by preparing instructional materials for schools, participating in student field trips, making presentations before school classes and youth
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The Workforce Challenge: Recruiting, Training, and Retaining Qualified Workers for Transportation and Transit agencies FIGURE G-1 Primary components of the awareness, retention, and curriculum model. (Source: Mason et al. 1992, 16.) groups, and so forth. These transportation-oriented efforts reflect even broader engineering involvement in outreach and awareness programs in the field of engineering (NAE 2002). Two recent reports of committees of the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) address awareness of engineering and technology and how both K-12 education and public understanding of engineering and technology can be improved (Pearson and Young 2002; NAE 2002). The findings of these studies apply to attracting young people to transportation careers as well as attracting people to engineering careers and improving technology literacy. The committee believes that as the transportation industry begins to look more closely at specific steps it can take to attract young people to transportation careers, it can learn and participate through partnerships in the broader efforts described and proposed in these two studies. The NAE Committee on Public Awareness of Engineering found evidence of many grassroots outreach and awareness programs aimed at young people in grades K-12. Organizations use a variety of tools in their programs, including websites, public service announcements, speakers bureaus, and informal education programs. Education programs are skewed toward high school students and generally involve demonstrations, field trips, competitions, and mentor programs. Nevertheless, despite considerable support and evidence of enthusi
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The Workforce Challenge: Recruiting, Training, and Retaining Qualified Workers for Transportation and Transit agencies asm for these programs, very few attempts have been made to determine whether or how effectively such programs are changing attitudes or behaviors, especially in terms of improving mathematics and science literacy, encouraging engineering enrollments, and understanding more about engineering and its value.1 This makes it difficult to identify best practices. There is evidence that outreach to students must begin at the K-3 level if it is to be successful. There is some evidence suggesting that children self-select away from certain subjects and careers as early as the fourth or fifth grade. Sometimes this is based on difficulties with certain subjects (for example, mathematics and science) or perceptions about the careers themselves. Despite the range and number of awareness programs, engineering enrollments continue to decline, and many engineering schools are responding by becoming more engaged in looking for solutions.2 NAE (2002) highlighted three examples of engineering schools forming partnerships with state and local institutions to expand their reach and strengthen their offerings. One engineering school, with significant support from its state business community, has created a successful summer camp for mathematics students. A second engineering school has formed an alliance with the state department of education and other institutions to strengthen the K-12 education curriculum and to train current teachers to teach to those standards. A third engineering school is partnering with eight other universities and the public school system in its metropolitan region to bring hundreds of students, many of them minority, to campuses where college faculty help coach the students in mathematics, science, and computer skills they will need to enroll and succeed in college. 1 This leads to an “awareness paradox”: although awareness programs are believed to be needed, measuring their effectiveness is very difficult. 2 Wulf and Fisher (2002, 37) suggest that attracting bright young people to engineering schools could be helped by a mentoring program in which every engineer in the country mentors (at least) four students with an interest in engineering and guides them through their undergraduate years. The same suggestion could be made for transportation careers.
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The Workforce Challenge: Recruiting, Training, and Retaining Qualified Workers for Transportation and Transit agencies The number of ongoing outreach programs is itself encouraging and something to build upon. Many current outreach activities have the potential to increase awareness of and attract young people to careers in transportation. Without such programs the likelihood that young people will be attracted to such careers is further reduced. Moreover, in light of the multitude of career paths that people take—for example, making midcareer changes or deciding to work again after retirement—outreach programs aimed at these potential workers might help build awareness of transportation career opportunities in a group previously neglected by such programs. The following are examples of how engineering associations are reaching out to young people. The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) has developed the World in Motion series for middle schools. The series consists of 8-week units that focus on problem-solving and design activities. The SAE Foundation supplies materials free of charge to any school that agrees to become partners with a local engineer or company that will provide volunteer support to the classroom. Three years ago the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) launched a website, PEERS (Pre-College Engineer/ Education Resource Site) (www.ieee.org/eab/precollege/peers/index.htm) to facilitate communication and collaboration between practicing engineers and K-12 teachers. IEEE also hosts a comprehensive online resource related to the history of electrical technologies. The annual National Engineers Week includes the “DiscoverE K-12” program, in which 40,000 engineers volunteer in classrooms across the country. They interact with more than 5 million students and teachers with support from more than 60 corporations and 75 government, education, and engineering organizations. A number of engineering associations, businesses, and other organizations sponsor contests and award programs intended to in-
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The Workforce Challenge: Recruiting, Training, and Retaining Qualified Workers for Transportation and Transit agencies terest students in science, engineering, and technology. The best-known contest is the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in which several million students compete in local, state, and regional fairs around the world. The FIRST Robotics Competition challenges teams of high school students and engineers to design and build a robot that can defeat another robot in some kind of game. The competition attracts more than 500 teams each year. In 1998, FIRST initiated a contest for middle school children using LEGO building blocks, sensors, motors, and gears. Real-world problem-solving is the focus of the TEAMS (Tests of Engineering Aptitude, Mathematics, and Science) Contest, sponsored by the Junior Engineering Technical Society ( JETS). The National Engineering Design Challenge, sponsored by JETS and several other organizations, attracts about 80 teams from around the country and is held in conjunction with National Engineers Week. From 1997 to 2000 the U.S. Department of Transportation supported a career-oriented outreach program called the Garrett A. Morgan Transportation and Technology Futures Program. It consisted of four components. The first was a mathematics, science, and technology literacy program for K-12 students aimed at connecting school mathematics and science skills with a broad range of attainable transportation career possibilities. The second was a program that sought greater engagement of community colleges in training transportation employees and retraining people who wish make a career change and work in the transportation sector. Third, a transportation degree program initiative sought to increase the development of and enrollment in multidisciplinary transportation degree programs. Finally, the Morgan program sought to ensure the availability and accessibility of lifelong learning opportunities for transportation agency employees. Funding for the program stopped after 2000.
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The Workforce Challenge: Recruiting, Training, and Retaining Qualified Workers for Transportation and Transit agencies REFERENCES Abbreviations FHWA Federal Highway Administration NAE National Academy of Engineering FHWA. 2002. National Transportation Workforce Summit: Summary of Proceedings. U.S. Department of Transportation, Washington, D.C., May. Henderson Associates. 2000. Minnesota Summit on Civil Engineering Workforce Development. Final Report 2000-23. Nov. Mason, J. M., Jr., J. R. Tarris, E. Zaki, and M. S. Bronzini. 1992. NCHRP Report 347: Civil Engineering Careers: Awareness, Retention, and Curriculum. TRB, National Research Council, Washington, D.C. NAE. 2002. Raising Public Awareness of Engineering. National Research Council, Washington, D.C. Pearson, G., and A. T. Young (eds.). 2002. Technically Speaking: Why All Americans Need to Know More About Technology. National Academy of Engineering, Washington, D.C. Wulf, W. A., and G. M. C. Fisher. 2002. A Makeover for Engineering Education. Issues in Science and Engineering, Spring.
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