Members of the National Network for the Transportation Workforce (NNTW) team led a Transportation Research Board panel discussion on January 10, 2017 to share how career pathway demonstration programs can unite industry and academic leaders to prepare the next generation of transportation professionals. The panel, titled “Transportation Career Pathways,” was sponsored by the TRB Standing Committee on Education and Training.
“The panel served as an ideal forum to introduce the NNTW’s National Transportation Career Pathways (NTCP) Initiative to an audience of specialists in transportation education, training, and workforce development,” said Tyler Reeb, Associate Director, Southwest Transportation Workforce Center (SWTWC). In opening remarks, Reeb introduced the NTCP Initiative vision of connecting industry employers and academic leaders to inspire and prepare greater number of students to pursue transportation career pathways.
The NNTW efforts are supported by a $1.25 million Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) grant awarded last fall. Under the grant, the SWTWC will launch a pilot career pathway demonstration program to focus on transportation planning careers. Lessons learned from that pilot program will inform the development of future career pathway demonstrations that address occupations in transportation in areas such as engineering, safety, operations, and environment.
Following Reeb’s introductory comments, Scott Jakovich, NTCP Project Coordinator, discussed the NNTW’s implementation plans to form discipline working groups, identify critical occupations, design career pathways and challenge projects, pilot capstone courses, and implement methods to evaluate success and refine curriculum.
After discussing implementation, Stephanie Ivey, Director, Southeast Transportation Workforce Center, addressed how the NTCP initiative engages and convenes discipline working groups—made up of public and private-sector employers and leaders from technical schools, community colleges, and universities—to promote to steer and advance initiative outcomes. Ivey, who will develop the career pathway demonstration focused on operations, explained how the NNTW team incorporated aspects of a successful STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) Hub approach she had previously implemented in Tennessee.
The STEM Hub approach engages STEM industry partners to engage K-12 students to pursue STEM career pathways, Ivey said, noting that approach would be applied to students in the post-secondary continuum for the NTCP. The NNTW team will use the STEM Hub model to inform the development of challenge projects for the career pathway demonstrations to create employer-driven student curriculum.
Ivey’s comments were followed by presentations from Patrick Son, Managing Director, National Operations Center of Excellence and Eric Rensel, Vice President Gannett Fleming, who discussed the industry perspective on operations discipline. They shared how meaningful employer-educator networks can develop career pathways that address skills gaps and create pipelines of talented professionals to meet future challenges in operations and other transportation disciplines.
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