KM Toolbox: Last Lecture on Operations Apprenticeship Program

The NJDOT Knowledge Management Toolbox offers examples of several knowledge sharing practices that have been, or could be, adopted by agency units to retain knowledge in a unit in the face of illness, retirements or transfers to other units at NJDOT.

Highway operations crew members are now trained to do all types of work required.

Highway operations crew members are now trained to do all types of work required.

At the NJ STIC 2nd Quarter meeting, held on June 16, 2021, Michele Shapiro, Director, NJDOT Human Resources, presented on the Operations Apprenticeship Program as it relates to Strategic Workforce Development, an FHWA EDC-6 initiative. Ms. Shapiro retired from NJDOT in 2021 and her presentation serves as a Last Lecture, a knowledge sharing strategy that provides insight on a particular topic from an individual leaving an agency.

The Operations Apprenticeship Program began in 2014 as a way to provide consistent training and job skills among crew members in Highway Operations, and to establish a path to advancement for workers. The program was the brainchild of Andrew Tunnard, Asst. Commissioner, Transportation Operations Systems and Support. Ms. Shapiro worked with Mr. Tunnard to move away from a structure of specialty crews and have all employees trained to do all types of work required. They developed a job title structure and staffing profile for each crew, and identified a training team of Subject Matter Experts within Operations who designed curriculum for both on-the-job and classroom training. Entry-level positions in this program do not require specific education or skill sets. When individuals have proven competency on particular tasks, they are then eligible to apply to the next level. Employees can choose to stop their advancement at any point.

Employees have a path for advancement from entry-level trainee to supervisor.

Employees have a path for advancement from entry-level trainee to supervisor.

Human Resources worked with the NJ Civil Service Commission to allow hiring into entry-level trainee positions and advancement to Highway Operations Technician 1 (HOT 1) without a Civil Service Exam. Within this program, advancement to the HOT 2 level is dependent on a unique Civil Service-approved practical test to be administered by the DOT training team and NJDOT Human Resources staff. Ms. Shapiro offered a number of lessons learned from this ongoing initiative that Human Resources is applying to future efforts. They have received approval for an apprentice title for construction inspectors and will be developing training, and are working on training for the Engineering Technician program to ensure continual growth for these employees within the agency.

Ms. Shapiro's video presentation is available here:


Knowledge Management Toolbox, Last Lecture. NJDOT Technology Transfer. Website. Retrieved at:




2020 Francis B. Francois Award for Innovation – NJDOT’s Marine Navigation Retroreflective Markers

NJDOT's Flexible Marine Navigation Retroreflective Marker

Adoption of new technology and innovative solutions is pivotal to improvements in transportation systems and New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) is adopting innovation in its projects to increase safety and efficiency, and reduce costs. The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) recognizes these efforts through its Francis B. Francois Award for Innovation. The award enables the winning state to fund a $10,000 graduate fellowship at a state university of the winner’s choosing. In 2020, 36 state DOTs nominated 79 projects and AASHTO awarded its Francis B. Francois Award to NJDOT for the innovative use of retroreflective markers for marine navigation.

Marine Navigation Retroreflective Markers are an innovative addition to the traditional lights required by the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) on bridge fenders. The State of New Jersey owns and maintains 65 bridges that cross navigable waterways. Lighting equipment is used on bridge fenders to aid navigation through the channels underneath the bridges. Any failure of these lights creates a safety hazard and requires emergency repairs. Upon detection of a light failure, a work order is issued by NJDOT for an emergency crew, incurring costs due to lost productivity and overtime pay. In addition, the USCG may impose a penalty of $25,000 per day per incident. The genius of the innovation is in the installation of retroreflective panels, typically used on highways, which are themselves inexpensive. As a backup for the navigation lighting, these panels maintain safety for boaters, and help to ensure the safety of repair crews as work can now be carried out during daylight hours rather than immediately — irrespective of daylight or harsh weather conditions. This cost-effective solution makes navigation safer and reduces the burden of maintenance. The USCG has approved NJDOT’s Marine Navigation Retroreflective Markers as a backup to the navigation lighting system.

The Marine Navigation Retroreflective Markers can easily be adopted by other NJ agencies and other state DOTs as backup lighting for navigating waterways under bridges.

Watch the video shared at the AASHTO awards to learn more about NJDOT's Marine Navigation Retroreflective Markers.

Use of the marine navigation retroreflective markers can aid navigation

Use of the marine navigation retroreflective markers on bridges as backup navigation lighting

Use of the marine navigation retroreflective markers beneath bridges for better guiding boats