The Southwest Transportation Workforce Center (SWTWC) and the Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) co-hosted an exciting lineup of keynote speakers and panelists to address how to prepare the national workforce for the tremendous changes underway in the transportation sector. Titled “Faster, Smarter, Cleaner, Greener: Developing the Transportation Workforce of the Future,” the April, 29, 2016, summit convened thought leaders in transportation technology and workforce development to discuss career pathways in transportation and how to prepare the next generation of workers.
Dan Richard, Chair of the California High-Speed Rail Authority, was the keynote speaker for the morning session of the summit and Carolyn Flowers, Acting Administrator of the Federal Transit Administration, keynoted the afternoon session. Panelists included elected officials, directors from public transportation agencies, and leaders from industry and academia. SWTWC Director and METRANS Associate Director Thomas O’Brien also played a major role in the proceedings, providing both an introductory overview for the day, and moderating the panel discussion in the afternoon. According to O’Brien, “The Summit provided a unique opportunity to see where we have come since the last time METRANS and MTI jointly sponsored a workforce summit in 2010. At that time, there was no Uber or Lyft and driverless trucks weren’t part of the agenda. While the rapid advancement in technology may make it harder to anticipate where growth in employment will occur, the basic challenges remain: how do we identify the needs of employers and how do we prepare people to take advantage of those opportunities.”
Panelists on the morning and afternoon sessions included: Tim Rainey, Executive Director, California Workforce Investment Board; Oliver Baines, President, Fresno City Council; Afshin Pishevar, Chief Legal Officer, Hyperloop Technologies; Ed Reiskin, Director of Transportation, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency; Kristin Decas, CEO and Port Director, Port of Hueneme, California; Carol Kuester, Director, Electronic Payments, Metropolitan Transportation Commission; Jim Misener, Director of Technical Standards, Qualcomm Technologies Inc.; and Mark Novak, Dean, Extended University Division, CSU Bakersfield.
The prestigious lineup of participants engaged a range of pressing workforce questions including: How can schools work with industry leaders to ensure relevant education and training programs? What specialized skills will be needed to plan and construct a world-class transit system? Which technologies will be critical in developing clean, efficient freight transportation systems that can compete at the regional, state and national levels? The key takeaway from the discussion was that workers will need to be technologically savvy, while working in capacities that break down traditional workplace siloes. SWTWC Associate Director Tyler Reeb noted that “the transportation worker of the future will have an integrative skillset which brings together IT, project management, and problem solving in order to keep up with rapidly changing technologies.”
The Mineta Transportation Institute is based at San Jose State University and the Southwest Transportation Workforce Center is based in the California State University, Long Beach METRANS offices.