New Strategies to Appeal to Up-and-Coming Workforce

by CFIRE Administrator on September 25, 2009

Most public transportation agencies have valuable employees who were born in the early post-WWII era, and now those agencies will face a wave of retirements over the next decade. For some agencies, up to 50 percent of their workforce will be eligible for retirement sometime in the next 10 years.

In response to this looming loss of skills, as well as to address the technological shift that has accelerated in the most recent decades, the 21st Century Workforce Development Summit (CFIRE 01-10) was convened. This summit included representatives from state DOTs, educational institutions, and consulting firms and sought to cooperate on growing the current workforce of transportation professionals. The summit was organized by CFIRE Executive Director Teresa Adams and was hosted in Madison, Wisconsin.

The representatives concluded that the future workforce must include a wider range of skills in order to respond flexibly to agency needs, including financial management and team communication. Many of the needed skills are not directly taught in university programs, such as ethics and leadership.

Addressing the insufficient number of potential employees in the market, the summit found that more involvement in the K-12 schooling period might be necessary to encourage young people to focus on engineering skills. This includes more participation of the transportation industry in ongoing efforts to promote Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), as well as improving the image of the transportation workplace.

Recruiting new employees is only one facet, however. Other strategies discussed at the summit included improving the skills of existing employees through training programs and increasing workplace flexibility to encourage older employees to remain.

Five steps to address the workforce deficit were decided on:

  1. Creating a professional development network to continue education outside the classroom.
  2. Expanded partnership between members of the transportation industry for better efficiency and better relationships.
  3. Improving the visibility and attractiveness of the transportation industry, as well as science and engineering in general, in K-12 institutions.
  4. Research to understand workforce needs and the skills acquired throughout K-12 and further education.
  5. Promoting alternative leadership that emphasizes employee empowerment and alters institutional structures to be more communicative and open to innovation.

To learn more about this project and to read the final report, visit the CFIRE 01-10 project page.

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