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1 The Transportation Research Boardâs (TRBâs) National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) commissioned this project to synthesize the current state of practice associated with the implementation of transportation workforce planning and development strategies at state departments of transportation (DOTs) and associated local and tribal technical assistance programs (LTAPs/TTAPs). The project identifies challenges, oppor- tunities, and lessons learned through a literature review and a survey of state DOTs and LTAPs. It includes five selected case examples of current practice. The synthesis addresses all modes of surface transportation. It focuses especially on young adults, second career professionals, veterans, and encore careerists. The scope of this research encompasses training, skills building, and forecasting only to a limited extent. The report focuses on workforce development under the umbrella of workforce planning. Many of the macro-level elements that relate to workforce planning and development fall beyond the scope of this synthesis research and merit further examination and study. The literature review and case examples in this report touch on some of these topics, but a full analysis of the state of the transportation workforce pipeline, recruitment, workforce demographics, and workforce forecasting requires additional consideration. The literature highlights effective workforce programs across state transportation agen- cies, but also demonstrates the numerous challenges and opportunities and the diverse approaches to addressing them. There is a host of connected activities spanning workforce planning, workforce development, succession planning, and forecasting, which are closely related, but distinct, topics. However, these terms are often conflated in the literature. As industry needs shift and technologies evolve, transportation employers increasingly will need to focus on recruiting, developing, and retaining skilled workers. The research team developed the survey portion of this project in parallel to and fol- lowing the literature review. To collect standard, comparable, significant data, a concise online survey was designed for training department officials at the state DOTs and the LTAP Center Directors in each state. The survey encouraged respondents to answer questions about agency background and context, the broader workforce development and planning environment, specific types of programs, funding, and social factors. We achieved a 62% response rate from 45 out of 50 agencies. The survey found there is a consistent lack of employees to implement full training pro- grams. Many state DOTs have only a handful of employees, and the typical LTAP operates with a small staff, sometimes augmented by grant-funded staff. There is little correlation between the size of the state and the number of people tasked with training and workforce development. The survey also found that training and human resources/workforce planning S U M M A R Y Transportation Workforce Planning and Development Strategies
2 Transportation Workforce Planning and Development Strategies functions are often located in different organizational units of the state; this is even more pronounced when the LTAP is not located within the state DOT. Overall, the survey shows that state DOTs and LTAPs are focused on traditional road- way engineering, safety, and equipment technical instruction. Topics also relevant to the modern state DOTâsuch as planning, environmental/cultural protection, and multimodalismâare found in some state DOT/LTAP training catalogs, but they are not universal. Furthermore, many respondents suggest managerial and leadership train- ing is not being adequately addressed. Given the small staff size and divided portfolios of duties, there is a consistent recognition that workforce development is a serious challenge across the nation for the transportation industry. Given that the organizational structure and program offerings of state DOTs and LTAPs vary considerably, case examples were selected to profile a cross-section of organizational types encountered in the survey. Overall, we aimed for a variety in size, geography, popula- tion, and state DOT and LTAP arrangement and programming. In addition, we ensured that the states had elements that would be interesting, useful, and transferable for others. All of the selected case examples submitted thorough responses to the survey and agreed to serve as detailed cases. The first two case examplesâOhio and Alaskaâare DOTs that directly operate an LTAP. The second twoâMontana and New Yorkâare standalone LTAPs, both at universi- ties. The final case exampleâMichiganâcovers a DOT (without an LTAP) with an active workforce development program. The intent of each case example was to present a snapshot of the organization or functional unit, highlighting its activities related to the workforce in that state. For example: â¢ The Ohio Office of Local Programs/LTAP Center uses a sophisticated training evalua- tion model for post-course evaluation, and conducts a return on investment analysis for select courses. The Ohio LTAP also operates technical assistance programs that are not courses. These programs provide help to practitioners, facilitate peer-to-peer information exchange, and take on tasks that are not in the portfolio elsewhere in the Ohio Depart- ment of Transportation (ODOT). â¢ One of the notable practices at the Alaska DOT Office of Research, Development, and Technology Transfer is a nationally recognized leadership development program that focuses on cross-discipline, peer-to-peer knowledge exchanges. Trainers have recognized that by breaking down silos within the agency, staff can learn from each other and easily transfer skills across disciplines. â¢ Montanaâs LTAP participates in collaborative partnerships, such as the multiagency North and South Dakota Regional Local Roads Conference. It is also collaborating with Colorado to assist in developing the first-in-the-nation 2-year Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Highway Maintenance Management degree program. â¢ New Yorkâs LTAP, housed at Cornell University, emphasizes partnerships with profes- sional associations and allied higher education institutions to help foster collaboration and disseminate training opportunities. Partners include the state universities and pro- fessional trade groups, several of whom particulate in the LTAPâs 3-day self-supporting Highway School program that is intended for town road superintendents. â¢ To address workforce pipeline challenges and plan for future needs, the Michigan DOT Performance Excellence Section implements internships and co-op programs, including ones that encourage veterans and students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities to learn as interns. Funding for employee workforce development and planning originates from scattered sources and is provided beyond the required match by the state to support the program appropriately.
Summary 3 Together, the literature review, survey, and case examples revealed several related findings: â¢ There is no standard definition or understanding about workforce development. State DOTs and LTAPs frame their characterizations of workforce development in a wide variety of ways, though the recurring theme across all respondents was a focus on training and skills. As a result, there is no clear consensus about how to handle many workforce challenges. â¢ Institutional structures differ from state to state. Relatedly, statesâ approaches to workforce planning and development at state DOTs and LTAPs also vary. In fewer than one-third of the states, the state DOTs and LTAPs are closely coordinated and always work collaboratively and share resources and communication outlets. â¢ There is a range of funding options. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) pro- vides $150,000 each year to LTAPs. State and local resources must match this, although this âflatâ amount does not vary based on state size or complexity. â¢ Practice is clearly changing to address new challenges facing the industry. Although the transportation sector is facing many of the same opportunities and challenges as the larger U.S. workforce in general, some concerns, such as salary and benefits, appear more pronounced in the transportation sector. â¢ The primary focus remains on traditional highway/roadway planning and program- ming. This is understandable given the original mission of state DOTs and LTAPs, but with the changing nature of the workforce, replenishment may depend on a broader perspective. The skills required in transportation departments today and in the future go beyond the traditional construction, maintenance, and operation missions of agencies. Future research may focus on developing a national perspective for transportation work- force planning and development. This approach could address standardization and bench- marking in order for states to learn from each other through case examples of practice as well as peer-to-peer learning. Greater attention may also be needed to determine the distinctions among workforce development, workforce planning, and succession planning. Other potential areas of research that could be addressed include the following: â¢ Advancing a clear definition for transportation workforce development. A common definition and characterization would help to clarify both the traditional needs inherent in workforce development as well as future trends. â¢ Understanding how to improve workplace and job quality. The survey found that the most commonly identified non-personal reason for employees to leave was compensation, including both salary and benefits. Therefore, many statesâ competitive propositions may lie in a better balance between work and personal life or flexible work arrangements. â¢ Developing options for new multimodal coursework. States may wish to consider expanding their portfolios of course offerings and focus on multimodalism, planning, and managerial and leadership âsoft skills.â This synthesis shows activity, interest, and need for continued transportation workforce strategies. Many states, LTAPs, universities, and private partners providing leadership and training are keenly aware of the broader U.S. workforce in general and have developed a robust and diverse set of professional and training practices.