METRANS Associate Director and Southwest Transportation Workforce Center (SWTWC) Director Tom O’Brien and SWTWC Associate Director Tyler Reeb recently visited the tribal colleges of the Tohono O’Odham Nation, in South Central Arizona. Their visit included meetings with tribal college faculty and students to get a clearer understanding of transportation and training needs in the vastly rural region. During their Arizona site visit, O’Brien and Reeb also toured the Pima Community College campuses in addition to the three Tohono O’Odham Community College campuses.
SWTWC and the METRANS-led Pacific Southwest Region University Transportation Center are working with Pima Community College to launch workforce development programs focused on online commercial truck driving training, employability skills (often referred to as soft skills) for the transport sector, supply chain and logistics online curriculum, and GIS training for underserved communities.
“Pima Community College has demonstrated its leadership in training and education in Southern Arizona. Being on the ground in Tucson allowed us to see just how innovative they are as well as the value of their established relationships with partners like the Tohono O’Odham Nation and the nearby Pascua Yaqui Nation.”
The various meetings and site visits enabled O’Brien and Reeb to learn about the most critical needs facing the Tohono O’Odham community. The Tohono O’Odham Nation spans a total of 4,460 square miles, which is approximately the same size of Connecticut. “Tribal community access to local transportation is severely limited. There are more than fifty small communities and an expansive land size. Efficiency and coverage are key issues,” O’Brien said.
Reeb added that “transportation access is an ethical issue that impacts communities, families, and individuals, so there was discussion about modes of collaboration and how new funding sources might need to be identified to address these issues.” CSULB, in partnership with Pima Community College and Tohono O’Odham Community College, is looking to fulfill its mandate of collaboration and bringing transportation innovation to rural areas, particularly in designated tribal lands.
In conjunction with their visit to the 2017 National Tribal Training Conference in Tucson, Arizona, on September 25-29, O’Brien and Reeb also held two meetings with administrators and faculty of Tohono O’Odham Community College (TOCC) in Sells, Arizona, to discuss possible collaboration. During their first meeting on September 26, O’Brien shared SWTWC’s main transportation workforce development focuses, which include trade corridors, supply chain diversity, work-based learning and apprenticeships, and GIS technology.