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Transportation Workforce Development Strategies: Success Stories and Lessons Learned to Aid in Building Career Pathways for Young Adults, Second Career Professionals, Veterans, and Encore Careerists


This research needs statement focuses on a synthesis of literature on the success stories and lessons learned associated with the implementation of surface transportation workforce development strategies. A special effort will be made to identify workforce development strategies to help build career pathways in surface transportation for youth, second career professionals, veterans, and encore careerists. Surface transportation for the purposes of this project would include motorized (e.g. automobiles, trucks, buses, rail cars) and non-motorized (e.g. cycling and walking) modes.

A great deal of excellent work has been conducted and published over the last several decades on transportation workforce development issues and challenges in the U.S. and based on these work strategies have been proposed to address these issues and challenges. Some of these strategies have been effective and others have not. Moreover, there is general agreement that a single document summarizing the results of the strategies would be very useful to individuals in academia, industry, labor and professional organizations, and government who are interested in meeting workforce needs and promoting workforce development in the 21th century.


The objectives of this research project are to: 1) synthesize the literature on surface transportation career pathways and workforce initiatives, outlining issues, challenges, and strategies; and 2) document the major results of the literature synthesis including success stories and lessons learned in building pathways to the surface transportation field for youth, second career professionals (particularly veterans), and encore careerists. The anticipated product will be a written report and a public webinar to summarize the findings of the study. The expectation is that this report will be of great interest to a variety of surface transportation stakeholders including: groups involved in K-12 activities that generate an awareness of surface transportation career opportunities: faculty and researchers in community colleges/technical schools, 4 year colleges, and public and private universities with undergraduate and graduate degree and certificate programs; and experts in continuing education and professional development programs. An underlying aim of the report would be to serve as a resource document to help these transportation stakeholder groups ensure that workforce development is: a) well understood in terms of challenges, needs, and the opportunity – within the industry and among stakeholders; b) elevated to a pressing public policy level that recognizes the direct links between a well prepared transportation workforce, an effective and efficient transportation system, and the health of every sector of our economy; c) recognized as a critical source of good jobs and careers that are well distributed geographically across the U.S.; and d_)_ advanced most effectively through building linkages and coalitions between elected officials and key stakeholders in industry, labor, government, and academia.


For transportation agencies, it is important to know if investments in workforce development activities will produce benefits to the agency. These benefits might include, for example, increases in employee, retention and efficiency as well as cost savings. This research will provide transportation agencies with guidelines for determining which workforce development activities to implement for various operational and training tasks based on anticipated costs, benefits, and implementation strategies. The methods identified in this research will also have the potential to provide agencies with quantitative evaluations of benefits to provide support for investment decisions. This research will also guide transportation agencies in developing appropriate workforce development programs.

Related Research:

Relevant TRB syntheses, special reports, workshops, conferences, standing committees, and peer exchanges should be reviewed for relevant research. Below is a partial list of such reports spanning 3 decades:

  1. National Transportation Workforce Summit Summary Report, Consortium of University Transportation Centers, Washington D.C., 2013.

  2. Wittwer, Adams and Toledo-Duran. “Report on 21st Century Workforce Development

Summit.” University of Wisconsin, Madison, National Center for Freight & Infrastructure

Research & Education, May 2009.

  1. Simpson, Ava. “Community College Contribution to Transportation Workforce Development.” Department of Political Science, Howard University, April 17, 2007.

  2. “Recruiting and Retaining Individuals in State Transportation Agencies.” NCHRP Synthesis 323, Transportation Research Board, National Research Council, Washington, DC 2003.

  3. Rahn, Toole, et al. “European Practices in Transportation Workforce Development.” U.S.Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration. June 2003.

  4. National Cooperative Highway Research Program, “Recruiting and Retaining Employees in State Transportation Agencies.

  5. Diewald, Walter, “The Workforce Challenge: Recruiting, Training, and Retaining Qualified Workers for Transportation and Transit Agencies.” TR News, No. 229 (November-December


  1. Coyner, Kelley. “Education Tomorrow’s Transportation Workforce: The Garrett A. Morgan Technology and Transportation Futures Program.” TR News 200 (February): 17-24. 1999.

The research should cover four topic areas as they relate to workforce development initiatives and strategies: (1) implementation, (2) impacts, (3) barriers, and (4) future challenges. Such initiatives and strategies are diverse and are designed to meet a set of intended objectives and workforce needs, competencies, and skill sets. It is expected that the implementation, impacts, and barriers of these initiatives may vary by workforce group and participating stakeholders.

Implementation: This topic should address the _how, what, and who related to the workforce initiatives and strategies: How were the initiatives and strategies implemented? What were the intended objectives and were they achieved? Who in the workforce was to benefit and what competencies and skills sets (if any) were addressed? An inventory of the initiatives and strategies should be developed in the form of case studies. The case studies should review the how, what, and who related to the initiatives and strategies.

Impacts: This topic should cover impacts related to workforce training administrative requirements, costs, and benefits. Based on the case studies, the successes and lessons learned will be identified and the extent to which objectives were achieved and not achieved will be reviewed. An emphasis should be placed on determining the costs and benefits of employing such workforce development strategies. Direct costs as well as indirect costs should be evaluated. It is expected that workforce development programs and strategies yield a diverse array of benefits. Benefits might include cost savings, improvements in job completion times and quantities, and increased retention. Based on the case studies, an effort should be made to identify guidelines on how to quantitatively calculate resultant benefits associated with the implementation of the workforce development strategy.

Barriers: This topic will address the barriers and challenges associated with the implementation of the workforce development initiatives and strategies presented in the case studies. Barriers may relate to the following factors:

o Demographic or socioeconomic characteristics of the transportation workforce

o Financial barriers, e.g. securing the funds needed to implement the workforce development strategy

o Organizational barriers, e.g. collaborating with other agencies with similar workforce development needs

o Technological barriers, e.g. limited computer skills and abilities of the workforce

o Safety barriers, e.g. safety concerns related to the use of innovative technology applications

The research should make a special effort to identify successful strategies that have been used to overcome these barriers.

Future Challenges: It is important to plan for the future changes in the field of transportation. This research should try to identify potential changes in workforce needs as demographics of the workforce shift over time; as the challenges and costs of delivering transportation services change; and as technology innovation continues to impact the way transportation services are provided

Sponsoring Committee:AJE15, Workforce Development and Organizational Excellence
RNS Developer:John Collura, University of Massachusetts Amherst; Lydia Mercado, U.S. DOT University Transportation Centers Program; Glenn McRae, University of Vermont Transportation Center
Date Posted:06/07/2016
Date Modified:06/17/2016
Index Terms:Transportation planning, Labor force, Professional employment, Transportation careers, Strategic planning, Nonmotorized transportation,
Cosponsoring Committees: 
Administration and Management
Education and Training
Transportation (General)

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