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Next Steps

Attract

Young woman reading a book.

Challenge: the transportation industry suffers from the perception that it offers "low wages, undesirable benefit packages, and limited advancement opportunities." It needs to enhance its image and branding in order to attract the next generation of qualified workers.

Strategic goal/outcome: position the transportation industry as a top career destination – so that highly motivated students/applicants apply to transportation-related academic and certification programs, and seek transportation jobs upon graduation.

Action Strategies:

  • Formulate activities and programs that will make transportation careers attractive to applicants and students at all educational levels (e.g., K-12, high school, community college, university, technical, masters).
  • Develop marketing campaigns that will promote transportation as a field that encourages innovation and creativity, and illustrate to prospective workers how transportation can provide an empowering and rewarding career.
  • Ensure the availability of internship and/or apprenticeship opportunities throughout the industry.
  • Ensure the availability of scholarships for advanced studies in transportation.

Recruit and Hire

Challenge: the increasing demand for transportation services is likely to tax the capacity of the transportation infrastructure and the currently available workforce. The transportation industry "does not have good access to non-traditional labor pools (e.g. individuals with disabilities, demobilizing military personnel, or women)" who could help respond to increased demand.

Strategic goal/outcome: improve pathways into various levels of transportation occupations for all, with a special focus on women and underrepresented populations, so that an increased proportion of underrepresented groups are employed in all modes and levels of the transportation workforce.

Action Strategies:

  • Create and publicize alternative pathways to employment, such as apprenticeships, trade and craft programs, and certification programs.
  • Facilitate interaction with state workforce investment boards/programs, focusing on states with higher transportation workforce demand.
  • Establish an online USDOT portal that provides information on transportation-related careers across all modes and relevant disciplines.

Develop and Retain

Young male standing in front of red semi-trailer truck

Challenge: changing workforce requirements in the transportation industry, such as rising occupational standards and rapidly changing technologies, may lead to a workforce that is unprepared to handle or adapt to the challenges of the industry.

Strategic goal/outcome: ensure that the transportation workforce has the ability to lead, anticipate, and apply innovation, so that it is equipped to handle evolving technology standards and competency requirements.

Action Strategies:

  • Invest in current workforce to improve technological skills and competency.
  • Promote innovative training and educational methods, such as simulations, case studies, and hands-on exercises, in order to accelerate and motivate learning.
  • Identify and quantify skill sets and competencies for key transportation occupations.
  • Foster the development of national competency standards for transportation occupations as appropriate.
  • Translate employers' needs of the future into educational programs and/or curricula at all levels.

Knowledge Management and Succession Planning

Challenge: the transportation industry faces an insufficient pipeline of new workers, with impending baby boomer retirements and the potential shortfall of qualified expertise in critical transportation occupations. This could potentially lead to a loss of specialized knowledge and experience that are critical for the efficient operation of the transportation system.

Strategic goal/outcome: create a larger pool of qualified transportation workers to meet the current and future challenges of a multimodal transportation system, so that there is a steady and sustainable source of new/experienced workers entering the transportation workforce.

Action Strategies:

  • Pilot test model succession plans, mentoring programs, and knowledge management systems to ensure the transfer of institutional knowledge in the current situation.

Measure and Evaluate

Challenge: Data sources for various aspects of the transportation workforce (e.g., by mode, sector, occupation, title) are varied in their quality and use. There is no consensus on the definition of who constitutes the "transportation workforce" as well as no national inventory of data regarding skills and competency requirements for occupations/disciplines by mode. There is little data on or analysis of workforce programs' effectiveness.

Strategic goal/outcome: promote policies for and funding of rigorous data collection, research, and analysis of the transportation workforce, in order to foster a data-driven approach to making investment and policy decisions on transportation workforce development.

Action Strategies:

  • Develop and maintain data sets on the transportation workforce to ensure that programs and actions are based on reliable data.
  • Develop and report performance metrics for transportation workforce development that will validate program outcomes.
  • Conduct targeted research studies on transportation workforce development to address gaps in knowledge, data, policy, and practice.
  • Identify, document, and disseminate notable practices in transportation workforce development.
  • Strengthen ties between DOT operating administrations and BTS/BLS so as to agree on data definitions (key occupations by modes, sectors, etc.).

Immediate Opportunities

  • Formalize the structure and process for Joint Action.
  • Build on existing, well-conceived pathways to reach youth and potential new entrants (e.g., summer transportation institutes, STEM initiatives and marketing campaigns).
  • Publicize and help widely disseminate successful non-traditional methods of recruiting and hiring across all modes of transportation.
  • Draw on extensive education and training offered through federal agencies, state and local transportation agencies, educational institutions, school systems, professional associations, labor unions and others.
  • Take the opportunity when employees exit to rethink what qualifies as "critical knowledge" and how work is organized – see innovative state DOTs (e.g., VA, MS, MN).
  • Identify and develop a plan to address the highest priority data issues across all modes of transportation.

The Way Forward

A series of five images: U.S. Department of Transportation logo; commuter train; yellow semi-tractor truck; cargo ship at sea; jet on a runway.

Moving to a coordinated national strategy requires both building on significant progress to date and forming action-focused coalitions of leadership and interests

  • Across USDOT Operating Administrations
  • With other Federal agencies and their state/ local government partners and policy-makers
  • With academic institutions, professional associations, labor unions, and transportation employers

By joining across the workforce life cycle to address cross-cutting data issues, a well-orchestrated network of teams can move the transportation enterprise to a new level of achievement.