Image of an intersection at night, a long exposure has made the cars driving by appear as lines of light

Adventures in Crowdsourcing Webinar Series 

Crowdsourcing for Advancing Operations is one of the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Every Day Counts (EDC) initiatives for the 2021-2022 round. The program is looking for innovative solutions to integrating low-cost data, such as information from smartphones or connected vehicles, into transportation systems management and operations (TSMO). To support this effort, FHWA is offering “Adventures in Crowdsourcing”, a series of virtual events with industry leaders sharing their knowledge and solutions.  More information on this EDC-6 Initiative, including case studies is available here.  

This webinar series restarts in May 2022 with several monthly webinars listed below. Click on the links below to learn more about each forthcoming event and to register.

Visit the Adventures in Crowdsourcing webinar page to view past webinars, or click on one of the links below to view a specific webinar.

FHWA contacts for Crowdsourcing for Advancing Operations are James Colyar (james.colyar@dot.gov), Greg Jones (GregM.Jones@dot.gov), and Ralph Volpe (Ralph.Volpe@dot.gov).  

Project Bundling Webinar Series

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has provided webinar recordings as part of ongoing support for the EDC-5 Project Bundling Initiative. While project bundling is not an entirely new concept, these trainings share best practices and advanced methods for the most efficient and effective project bundling applications.  As shown below, several trainings were scheduled through May 2022. 

Upcoming Webinars

  • May 17, 2022: Project Bundling: Construction and Contract Considerations (Registration link)

Past Webinars

  • September 16, 2020: Advanced Project Bundling: Examples Beyond Bridges (Webinar link)
  • October 21, 2020: Moving Towards Advanced Project Bundling: Key Characteristics of Lead Agencies (Webinar link).  )
  • November 18, 2020: Advanced Project Bundling: Making the Business Case (Webinar link)
  • December 16, 2020: Project Bundling for Local Public Agencies (Webinar link)
  • January 20, 2021: Advanced Project Bundling: How To (Webinar link)
  • February 17,2021: Advanced Project Bundling: Overcoming Hurdles (Webinar link)
  • June 15, 2021: A Strategic Approach to Project Bundling: What Does Success Look (Webinar link)
  • August 17, 2021: Project Bundling: The Business Process (Webinar link) 
  • October 14, 2021: Bundling Implementation Best Practices Workshop: The Self-Assessment Tool (Webinar link)
  • October 19, 2021: Project Bundling: Planning and Capital Programming (Webinar link) 
  • January 18, 2022: Project Bundling: Preconstruction (Webinar link)
  • March 15, 2022: Project Bundling: Local Agency Partnering (Webinar link)

 FHWA contacts for the Project Bundling initiative are Romeo Garcia (Romeo.Garcia@dot.gov) and David Unkefer (David.Unkefer@dot.gov).  

Updated September 15, 2021

Exploring Strategic Workforce Development: An Interview with NJDOT’s Human Resources

FHWA is promoting Strategic Workforce Development in highway maintenance, construction and operations.

FHWA is promoting Strategic Workforce Development in highway maintenance, construction and operations.

Strategic Workforce Development, an FHWA Every Day Counts (EDC) Round 6 innovative initiative, anticipates collaboration between government agencies, trade organizations, private agencies and communities to prepare individuals for the construction workforce. The demand for workers in highway maintenance, construction and operations is growing, as is the demand for new skill sets required for work with emerging technologies. An important element of this initiative is the recruitment and retention of women and minorities in the construction sector.  Through on-the-job training and supportive services program, NJDOT is exploring ways to work with contractors, contracting associations, and unions on shaping their future workforces, including programs aimed at increasing representation of women, minorities, and other disadvantaged populations in the construction and operations workforce.

We spoke with Kelly Hutchinson, Director, Human Resources at NJDOT about ongoing and planned workforce development initiatives at NJDOT.

Workforce Development at NJDOT

Q. We know that NJDOT engages in a variety of innovative programs to attract and retain your workforce. Could you update us on the status of some of these programs?

Operations Apprenticeship Program

NJDOT’s Operations Apprentice Program offers a structured path to advancement

NJDOT’s Operations Apprentice Program offers a structured path to advancement.

This program began in 2015 to provide consistent training and skills for workers in Highway Operations and to establish a path to advancement and has focused on developing a job title structure and staffing profile for participants as well as both on-the-job and classroom training. We are still promoting the program and trying to get our numbers where we want them to be. We will be testing our third of four groups of mid-level individuals at the end of April 2022.

NJ Supervisory Training Empowering Performance (STEP) Training

This program is focused on teaching management skills and several hundred NJDOT employees have completed this very beneficial initiative. The Civil Service Commission provides this training, which has been on hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic as instructors prefer in-person classes. We offer a two-day, in-house training on DOT-specific supervisory issues like the supervisor’s role in promoting staff, leaves of absence, working test periods, performance assessment reviews (PARS) and discipline to build on what participants learn in STEP, but we may opt to offer this in-house training first if there is an ongoing delay in STEP availability. We have a lot of new staff advancing to supervisory and managerial roles who could benefit from this training. We would also bring in small groups from this supervisory cohort to participate in and benefit from a few Lunch & Learn sessions. In the past, these smaller group sessions have been very helpful for sharing experiences.

Leadership Academy

This is a Transportation specific Leadership Academy that focuses on the importance of soft skills related to management. In April, the NJ Turnpike Authority will be hosting this program locally with instruction from Dr. Tom DeCoster. Many of our manager-level and future directors will be attending, along with staff from NJ TRANSIT and the Turnpike Authority.

Skill Enhancement for Clerical and Administrative Professionals (SECAP)

This program was originally focused on skill enhancement for staff in clerical positions. Now, more individuals are being hired to fill administrative professional roles, rather than the traditional clerical roles. Persons with technical capabilities, such as policy writing and budget preparation, are filling these roles. In response, we are considering revamping this program to best support the needed skill sets related to these positions.

Administrative College

This program is ongoing and focuses on offering courses on topics such as financial wellness, mental and physical health, and technical skills that can be mastered in a couple of hours. We conducted a survey pre-pandemic to identify what our employees wanted in Administrative College courses.

Promotion of Asst. Engineers to Senior Engineers

NJDOT engineers participate in on-site training as part of a program that moves individuals from journey level to mid-level positions.

NJDOT engineers participate in on-site training as part of a program that moves individuals from journey level to mid-level positions.

This effort was initiated about seven years ago and we have continued the practice, adding programs for most journey level professional titles in Human Resources, Budget, Planning, Accounting, and Information Technology. When participants have completed one year past their initial training and have been in their journeyman title for two years, management determines whether they are performing higher level work and have mastered the technical skills to be considered a technical expert in the particular area. After three years, they may be considered for reclassification.  Management makes recommendations and provides written justifications to advance persons based on established criteria and must describe why they are recommending an individual, or why they are not. HR ensures that each individual has completed enough time in the title and gives a provisional appointment, but the candidate needs to pass the Civil Service exam to confirm their promotion.

This effort reflects both a retention strategy and a strategy to help bridge the supervisory gap resulting from retirements.

Succession Planning

Promoting continual skill development among NJDOT staff is a priority.

Promoting continual skill development among NJDOT staff is a priority.

Moving forward, NJDOT succession planning training and development will likely be less formalized than the previous NJDOT program. In this former program, participants were selected through an application process, which, in my opinion, may not have been ideal for all employees. Training and development should happen daily, at all levels, and should not be programmed by Human Resources. We are looking to promote parity, transparency and equity through the training programs we just spoke about. Our Leadership Academy and STEP program help workers to advance and instruct supervisors on how to support training and development of all employees. We are depending on management and senior leadership to work on a smaller scale. We want to provide the same level of opportunity to everyone and see who rises to the occasion.

Q. In a presentation to NJ STIC last June, former NJDOT Human Resources Director Michele Shapiro noted that you would be working on trainings for both the Construction Inspectors Apprenticeship program and the Engineering Technician Apprenticeship program. What is the status of these new programs? Do you anticipate developing similar programs for other job titles?

We have the new titles in place, but we do not have the formalized training program developed yet. I have spoken with Asst. Commissioner Snehal Patel and we will be collaborating with the Construction Director to start building the program this summer. Our plan is to update the existing 10-module program for the Resident Engineer Construction Inspectors to adapt to the Apprenticeship program.

Q. We had heard of the possible expansion of experience-based hiring. Are there any updates to this initiative?

Automotive and Electrical Mechanics would be the titles we are considering for a possible formalized program. There are trainees now but we don’t have a formal program. With all the advances in technology, we would like to find a community college partner to provide training and build a title structure based on the new technologies and see if it would increase the salary determination. We have trouble competing with private industries for candidates from these two trades. We are continuing efforts to receive approval for the program from Civil Service but effort was halted with the pandemic.

Q. Does NJDOT have plans to offer internships or similar positions?

We have a Summer Student program called Temporary Employment Services primarily targeted to professional titles. We do not refer to the program as an internship because participants are paid but do not earn academic credit. Typically, we accept rising college seniors, but if applications are light in a given cycle, we sometimes accept sophomores and freshmen as well. Pre-pandemic, it was a great pipeline for permanent positions with the department. In 2019, we had 55 students in the program, paid $20/hour, and 20 percent were hired for full-time positions with NJDOT. With our late start this year, we will have 20 participants. Some may stay with us into the school year, working part-time up to 944 hours per year as permitted by Civil Service.

NJDOT Human Resources staff attend career fairs to raise awareness of rewarding jobs in transportation.

NJDOT Human Resources staff attend career fairs to raise awareness of rewarding jobs in transportation.

The program is beneficial to participants as they receive work experience while earning wages. We recruit candidates via virtual and in-person career fairs, partnerships with alumni of the program and community organizations, campus organizations and using Handshake (an app that connects students on college campuses with open positions, mainly internships and entry level jobs). When we meet with students and other prospective hires, we focus on communicating how NJDOT offers dynamic, interesting, rewarding, and purposeful career opportunities.

Our talent acquisition team facilitates recruitment efforts and includes a diverse group of DOT subject matter experts in addition to our Human Resource representatives. Specifically, members of the team reflect a diversity of ages, genders, races/ethnicities, and career stages. Some are alumni of the Temporary Employment Services program. Also important, team member subject matter expertise varies (e.g., structural, environmental). We have found success with the talent acquisition team as members make personal connections with candidates as they discuss their roles at DOT and opportunities with the department.

Developing the Highway Construction Workforce

Q. There seems to be a lack of awareness – especially among women and minority persons – about jobs/careers in the highway construction industry. Do you know of programs that have been effective at building awareness of job opportunities in transportation in New Jersey?

To recruit a diverse workforce, NJDOT Human Resources focuses on forging relationships with community organizations such as the Society for Hispanic Engineers, Society for African American engineers, Asian American engineers, LGBTQ+, and STEM programs.  We use LinkedIn a great deal to target engineers and collaborate with New Jersey Youth Corps to spread the word on career opportunities at NJDOT.

We also successfully partnered with the Trenton Soup Kitchen, working with job specialists to inform those accessing the kitchen about construction apprenticeships and Highway Operations Tech positions. We have partnered with the National High School Guidance Counselors Association for New Jersey and were able to post in their newsletter about job opportunities that do not require experience via our highway operations tech program.

NJDOT’s programs for career are effective recruitment and retention tools.

NJDOT’s programs for career are effective recruitment and retention tools.

In 2019, we increased representation of African American male applicants by 93 percent for Highway Operations Tech positions. We achieved this goal by reaching out to our many community partners, with 100 African American applicants from the Trenton Soup Kitchen. Finally, we partner with the NJ Department of Labor, One-Stop offices, and attend county and other virtual and in-person job fairs.

Q. Reliable transportation and child care are often cited as roadblocks to entry into the construction sector, particularly for women and minority candidates. What strategies could help to address these issues? Are you aware of any model practices or programs to support women and minority populations looking at the highway construction trades?

We had a program for parolees several years ago that focused on identifying job opportunities for them in locations with good transportation networks, such as Jersey City and Newark.

NJDOT does offer an employee subscription van pool (pre-COVID-19) that accesses various public transit stops near DOT headquarters.

The newly announced Trenton MOVES project seeks to deploy 100 on-demand Autonomous Vehicles (AVs) throughout the state capital; when deployed, it could prove to be great service for helping people access employment opportunities.

Q. Have you worked with the NJ Council of County Colleges to look at possible programs that might advance NJDOT’s goals for workforce development? Do you work with the NJDOL Office of Apprenticeship?

We do collaborate with NJ DOL and with the One-Stops and Career Centers. However, our apprenticeships are not true apprenticeships by federal labor standards, but have similar components. Because we work with Civil Service titles, it is much more difficult for us to be recognized as an official apprenticeship program.

We also have a tuition aid and reimbursement program, at the public college rate, for employees as long as their course of study relates to transportation.

"Yes, we can work with them and are very interested in building these relationships."

Looking Ahead

Q. What strategies should be pursued to encourage more New Jerseyans to consider a career in the construction industry? Who should be leading or involved in those efforts?

Creation and implementation of an awareness campaign to highlight construction career opportunities would be helpful, as such an effort could amplify the message that you don’t have to look a certain way to work in construction. The campaign should highlight the diversity of workers and work options in the construction industry. A team of “ambassadors” comprised of local union representatives, NJDOT staff, and others can describe the different kinds of work available within construction and showcase opportunities to increase interest in the profession.

Q. There have been a number of grant funding opportunities through the Department of Labor for pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs. Is NJDOT able to work with other organizations or academic institutions to build programs using these funds?

Yes, we can work with them and are very interested in building these relationships.

Resources

NJ STEP. Civil Service Commission | NJ Supervisory Training Empowering Performance (NJ STEP).

NJDOT Division of Human Resources. Current Openings & Application Process.

NJDOT Division of Human Resources. KM Toolbox: Last Lecture on Operations Apprenticeship Program.  Presentation to NJ STIC, 2nd Quarter Meeting, 2021

NJDOT Tech Talk! Webinar – Research Showcase: Lunchtime Edition 2022

On April 21, 2022, the NJDOT Bureau of Research hosted a Lunchtime Tech Talk! webinar, “Research Showcase: Lunchtime Edition!”. The event featured three important research studies that NJDOT was not able to include in the NJDOT Research Showcase virtual event held last October. The Showcase serves as an opportunity for the New Jersey transportation community to learn about the broad scope of academic research initiatives underway in New Jersey.

The three research studies focused on evaluation and testing of the performance and durability of materials and pavement for use in transportation infrastructure. After each presentation, webinar participants had an opportunity to pose questions to the presenter.

Evaluating the Potential of Using Foamed Concrete as the Insulation Layer for Pavements in Cold Regions. Cheng Zhu, PhD, PE, Assistant Professor, Rowan University, Center for Research and Education in Advanced Transportation Engineering Systems (CREATES)

In cold-weather areas, water freezes and thaws in the subgrade layer of the soil and causes weak zones in the subgrade that affect surface layer performance. These weaknesses appear as pavement surface distress and cracking. To protect the subgrade, insulating material is used.

Click for PDF

Extruded polystyrene (XPS) boards are commonly used as insulation but face deterioration over time with water infiltration, and installation is time-consuming and labor-intensive. This study looked at the potential for using foamed concrete as an alternative material. The study also looked at the methodology of selecting optimum parameters that balance mechanical strength and insulating effect. When density is low, more air bubbles provide more insulation, but more density gives higher mechanical strength.

Some of the results found through laboratory testing and large-scale testing using a soil box, include: foamed concrete with higher density has a higher compressive strength, thermal conductivity, and a lower porosity; to ensure the subgrade layer remains unfrozen, there is a minimum insulation thickness needed for a foamed concrete layer; increasing the depth of the insulation layer will achieve a better mechanical performance, while also increasing the frozen depth; and using a foamed concrete with a higher density results in a better mechanical performance.

Several questions were posed to Dr. Cheng after his presentation:

Q. What is the estimated design life with foamed concrete?
A. We did not check the timeframe of the pavement structure. We are currently working on lab tests to study the real traffic load on the pavement structure. A simulation could also be used.  This is something that we are currently working on.

Q. Were you able to find an optimal thickness and depth combination in this research?
A. We have some recommendations for the specific material used in this study. We have a design table that we can share for the foam concrete material but was not included in this presentation. We did a comparison among several insulation materials including foamed concrete, tire chips, foamed glass aggregates, and XPS board.

Q. Was the insulation box used to create the sample box replicated in the real life soil scenario?
A. We used XPS board around the sides to minimize heat transfer and to ensure heat transfer process in this test is vertical. In reality, the heat transfer in pavement is in the vertical direction.

Development of High Friction Surface Treatment Pre-screening Protocols and an Alternative Friction Application. Thomas Bennert, PhD, Rutgers University, Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation (CAIT) Associate Research Professor

The use of HFST can improve surface friction in road pavements around curves to reduce lane departure crashes or on steep declines to improve braking. With HFST, hard angular stone is glued to the pavement surface in less than a ½ inch application. The aggregate of choice, calcined bauxite, is applied using epoxy. HFST must be applied to pavements in “good” or better condition (i.e. with no cracking or rutting).

Click for PDF

There can be situations where pavement appears to be in good condition, but is not a good candidate for HFST. In 2018, in studies on two county roads, overlays showed signs of premature deterioration, probably due to previously undetected issues. It was determined that a prescreening protocol was needed to determine substrate conditions before HFST is applied. The study developed an effective prescreening tool that assesses the compatibility of asphalt and epoxy. Field core samples would be used to evaluate pull-off strength and relative asphalt binder properties.

The study also explored High Friction Chip Seal as an alternative to HFST. In a case study, an asphalt-based binding system was shown to be more compatible with the pavement than epoxy resin. Aggregate from local sources proved to be an acceptable substitute and less expensive than bauxite.

Following the presentation, Dr. Bennert responded to questions asked through the chat feature:

Q. What is the life expectancy of HFST? Is it suitable for places with higher traffic volumes?
A. If a road carries high traffic volumes, it is probably designed without horizontal curves and steep declines that might require quick braking. Some areas in Pennsylvania and lower volume highways have used this application. Pavement life expectancy is debatable but generally depends more on the level of traffic volume than years in place. At around a million passes, pavement starts to show raveling, in part due to the effects of UV on epoxy, but aggregate also debonds. Applications can lose friction quickly, an aspect that we are concerned with for its safety implications as well.

Q. Is there any difference in the noise with HFST?
A. In applications using aggregates that point upwards, there is a slight increase in noise at the tire-pavement interface, similar to noise resulting from other microsurface applications in place around the state.

Q. Anything similar to high friction chip seal in use elsewhere in the country?
A. No. We were one of the first to consider this particular application. We worked with the asphalt binder supplier and did some laboratory work and looked at durability. Chip seals have been used in other areas of the country in areas where friction is an issue, but chip seals have not been specifically designed as a friction treatment as this one is.

Influence of Cracking and Brine Concentration on Corrosion and Chloride Content. Aaron Strand is a Ph.D. Candidate in the John A. Reif, Jr. Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering at New Jersey Institute of Technology and recently defended his Ph.D. Dissertation successfully.

Throughout the U.S., agencies are using increasing amounts of salt and brine to counter road icing. Corrosion is an expensive problem for highway bridges. In reinforced concrete bridges, the primary cause of deterioration is chloride-induced corrosion. The focus of this study was the effect of surface-applied chlorides through road salting, typically using rock salt or brine. The research showed that the effect varies dependent on the condition of the bridge deck.

Click for PDF

The research explored whether current testing takes into consideration the amount of salt placed on the roads, salt placement cycles, and the current condition of the bridge deck. Chlorides can affect the bridge steel reinforcement through diffusion from the surface, and through cracks in the bridge deck. The variables explored were salt brine concentration and degree of cracking and their effect on the corrosion time of bridge decks. Testing was undertaken in the lab and from core samples from a large-scale bridge deck specimen.

Ongoing work based on this preliminary study includes testing of other concrete mixture designs, testing other rebar types, and developing a model for the amount of chloride content and corrosion current process. Looking at other concrete designs.

Mr. Strand answered several questions following his presentation:

Q. Among the cracked samples, did the higher brine solution show faster corrosion? What was the rate?
A. They all really showed corrosion immediately, at least in the macrocell test, but the rate was not shown. Going back to the total corrosion, six percent showed a quicker rate, but the other three passed the threshold at the half-year mark. There might be a decrease in the time to corrosion as the brine is increased, but it’s maybe not as much as would be expected from such an increase.

Q. Did you introduce temperature as a variable or do you see this as part of a future study?
A. This would be part of a future study. We did look at doing some type of freeze-thaw work on the concrete itself, but not as part of the brine cycling. As part of research into different mixture design, we would look into temperature’s role into the rate of ingress.

Q. How would you like to see your research findings used to inform bridge design, operations or maintenance in the future?
A. The testing we do shows how mixtures might perform together. For actual application-based work, we need to be more careful about the testing of the materials. For example, we know very little about how incorporating changes is in brine concentration might impact corrosion.

A recording of the webinar is available here.

FHWA Issued its EDC-6 Progress Report #2

FHWA’s latest report tracks progress on advancing innovations by the state DOTs during round 6 of the EDC program.

The Every Day Counts Round 6 Progress Report #2 is now available here.

Every Day Counts (EDC) is the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA’s) program to advance a culture of innovation in the transportation community in partnership with public and private stakeholders. Through this State-based effort, FHWA coordinates rapid deployment of proven strategies and technologies to shorten the project delivery process, enhance roadway safety, reduce traffic congestion, and integrate automation.

The Progress Report summarizes the December 2021 status of deployment for the 7 innovations in the sixth round of EDC. The report is intended to be a resource for transportation stakeholders as they develop their deployment plans and to encourage innovation in managing highway project delivery to better serve the Nation.

More information on the EDC-6 Round Innovations, including the initial Baseline Report and Progress Reports can be found here.

Exploring Strategic Workforce Development in NJ: An Interview with the IUOE Local 825

FHWA is promoting Strategic Workforce Development in highway maintenance, construction and operations.

FHWA promotes Strategic Workforce Development in highway maintenance, construction and operations.

Strategic Workforce Development, an FHWA Every Day Counts (EDC) Round 6 innovative initiative, anticipates collaboration between government agencies, trade organizations, private agencies and communities to prepare individuals for the construction workforce. The demand for workers in highway maintenance, construction and operations is growing, as is the demand for new skill sets required for work with emerging technologies. An important element of this initiative is the recruitment and retention of women and minorities in the construction sector.  Through on-the-job training and supportive services program, NJDOT is exploring ways to work with contractors, contracting associations, and unions on shaping their future workforces, including programs aimed at increasing representation of women, minorities, and other disadvantaged populations in the construction and operations workforce.

We spoke with Greg Lalevee, Business Manager, International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 825.  The organization is collaborating with Hudson County Community College (HCCC) on a newly established apprenticeship program and is undertaking other IUOE initiatives focused on workforce development in highway construction and related fields.

Background

Q. Can you tell us a little about your role with the union?

I am the Business Manager for the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 825. The jurisdiction of IUOE Local 825 is the State of New Jersey and the Hudson Valley (Rockland, Ulster, Sullivan, Orange, and Delaware Counties). We are heavy equipment operators, working on buildings, bridges, roadways, ports, airports, utility infrastructure, power generation, and reservoirs around the state such as Round Valley, Spruce Run, and Mercer Lake that ensure our water supply and serve for passive recreation. There isn’t much that an ordinary person does that operating engineers did not have something to do with. We have a 61-acre training center at exit 8A on the NJ Turnpike and a 51-acre training center in the Hudson Valley. I am also one of the vice-presidents for IUOE International, which covers the US and Canada.

Union members are engaged in many kinds of work using heavy equipment, including highway and bridge construction.

Union members engage in many kinds of work using heavy equipment, including highway and bridge construction.

Q. Overall, what professions does IUOE support?

Aside from heavy equipment operators, our members do construction layout and surveying for infrastructure projects. Several members work as mechanics/product support for machinery product lines including Caterpillar, Deere, and Komatsu.

Q. Before we delve into your new IUOE program with Hudson County Community College (HCCC), please tell us, based on your experience, if there is a lack of awareness– especially among women and minority persons – for jobs/careers in the highway construction industry?

The lack of awareness for construction careers reflects a multi-tiered situation. In contrast to those residing in more rural areas, prospective job candidates residing in urban areas typically live “vertically” in high-rises and thus are familiar with professions including plumbers and electricians but not so much the work of operating engineers. They are not typically exposed to professions utilizing heavy machinery.

For the last seven years, I have reached out to political and community leaders in several NJ cities to try to develop a direct-entry program that would bring training opportunities to those communities for jobs that are semi-skilled or lower-skilled. The goal was to work collaboratively with community leaders to create a pipeline for young people to enter the workforce as operating engineers. To operate heavy equipment, one needs hands-on training. Our training facility is on the Turnpike in Middlesex County, which is difficult to access for anyone without a car. In one city, we proposed that we set up basic courses, including OSHA 30-hour construction training and Hazardous Material training, in a school, or faith-based or community center, and we would send an instructor. The participants would be working locally during this time, earning money and accruing benefits. When the trainees had acquired some basic training we would then send the simulator to that location and these individuals could start to acquire hands-on training. After 18-24 months of paid training, they may be able to purchase a vehicle and thereby access the training center. Or we might be able to partner with a faith-based or community center to work out a transportation plan for those facing transport obstacles. I proposed this concept in four NJ cities but, frustratingly, did not receive any positive responses.

IUOE Local 825’s 61-acre training center is located at exit 8A on the NJ Turnpike.

IUOE Local 825’s 61-acre training center is located at exit 8A on the NJ Turnpike.

Q. Several commonly cited roadblocks to entry into the construction sector, particularly for women and minority candidates, include transportation issues and childcare. What strategies could help to address these issues?

Both transportation and childcare issues can be roadblocks to entry into the construction sector. One of the reasons we pursued the NJ PLACE 2.0 grant with a higher education partner was to open the door to Pell grants to underwrite transportation or childcare costs through existing grant funding opportunities that a traditional union apprenticeship would not be eligible. In the past year we received accreditation as a standalone licensed technical college to help us open the doors to more job candidates. As we pursue programs in higher education, we can now take advantage of not only NJ Department of Labor grants, but NJ Department of Education grants as well.

Q. Do you see a role for unions like IUOE in helping to reduce barriers for women, minorities, and others in entering the highway construction trades?

Recently, the Operating Engineers fought to have highway construction work be subject to project labor agreements (PLAs). When it was written twenty years ago, the original legislation exempted this field from these agreements. We retooled the legislation to include much more aggressive percentages of women and minorities required on projects and helped to secure its passage by the legislature. These percentages now apply to any construction project with a value of $5M or more. However, since the law was passed and signed by the Governor in April 2021, the State has not used a PLA on any project.

On-site heavy equipment operator training at IUOE Local 825’s training center.

On-site heavy equipment operator training at IUOE Local 825’s training center.

Participation numbers for female and minority employees on these publicly-funded highway projects are generally set on a county-by-county basis by NJDOT. One of the reasons we strongly support inclusion in PLA is because when our contractors secure a publicly-funded highway job, they often contact IUOE to request our assistance in reaching these goals. We respond affirmatively, but when we offer to help with this recruitment, follow-up from contractors is not forthcoming. The reason is that these participation numbers are goals, not mandates and it would be difficult to make them mandates.

There is a false perception that unions don’t have their doors open to all, and that there is not equity or diversity amongst the ranks. We actively recruit people from the non-union world. However, in the 21 years since I was hired by IUOE, we have only encountered two men of color and one woman working non-union jobs operating heavy equipment. There are few women and minorities working non-union operating equipment; it seems that there is not a real draw to this occupation. So the issue is broader than just the unions.

About five years ago, the number of paving projects in the State was increasing and we saw that our front line paving operators were aging. To address demand, we recruited 36 candidates to join a full-immersion paving training initiative. With paving shut down for the winter, we were able to hire and bring in seasoned major paving contractors as instructors during their off-season. The participants were instructed on one piece of paving equipment for 14-weeks until we knew they could run it proficiently. They were then absorbed by the paving industry for high-paying work during the summer and were brought back each winter over a five-year period to learn another piece of paving equipment. It’s not an apprenticeship program so we were not bound by apprentice rules, but we were able to train a diverse group. Of the 36, over one-third were minorities and women, and one-third were veterans. None of these people were associated with our union. In all, while the paving industry is unique, and our training school had the capacity to respond to this particular need, it represents an example of how thinking outside the box and proactively recruiting targeted groups can be very successful.

The IUOE Local 825 training facility occupies 61 acres where journeyworkers and apprentices can train on a large array of heavy equipment. https://www.iuoe825.org/home/training/

The IUOE Local 825 training facility occupies 61 acres where journeyworkers and apprentices can train on a large array of heavy equipment.

Q. We have heard that pre-apprenticeship programs are growing in popularity across the country. Are you aware of any pre-apprenticeship programs for the highway construction trades in NJ?

Pre-apprenticeship programs are not growing in the highway construction trades, but are happening in the building trades. I have concerns though with the pre-apprenticeship programs that I am aware of. For example, some pre-apprenticeship programs offer testing help that provide individuals with tutors to teach them how to pass the union apprenticeship written test. The percentage of these students who are actually admitted into the apprenticeship program does not appear to be that high however. Candidates are ranked by test score, so those that receive testing assistance might secure an interview, but they typically score lower in the written portion of the apprenticeship exam compared to their peers and thus do not advance. Overall, the competition for these positions is fierce.

The Earn & Learn program was funded by a NJ PLACE 2.0 grant through the NJ Department of Labor.

The Earn & Learn program was funded by a NJ PLACE 2.0 grant through the NJ Department of Labor.

IUOE Program with HCCC

Q. We know the Earn & Learn program orientation with Hudson County Community College was a few weeks ago [in January 2022]. How is program implementation going so far?

We understand that all 30 students are still enrolled and thriving. This cohort includes 10 minorities, 6 women, and 6 veterans so this is an opportunity to support diversity. For many of them, this is a continuation of their college education, and some are eager to pursue an occupation where they will earn $80-100,000 a year. The NJ PLACE 2.0 grant supports inclusion of a success coach to help keep the students on track, which is helpful. The students will be at our training center in May to begin traditional operating engineer training in the classroom and with equipment.

Q.Will all of your apprentices go through this program in the future, or are there multiple paths to a career in construction?

We have our own very competitive apprenticeship program with 160 people. There’s been a lot written about a skill gaps and a worker shortage. We want to develop a new apprenticeship model and have hired an academic who will begin working with us this spring to help develop some new apprenticeship tracks.

Students gain hands-on experience at IUOE Local 825’s NJ training center.

Students gain hands-on experience at IUOE Local 825’s NJ training center.

We have had a successful process for soliciting apprenticeship applicants in the last two traditional application cycles. There is a date and time when applications are available and the first 250 people in line receive one. The opportunity is posted on the Tuesday after Labor Day. We advertise in the paper and on social media. We have candidates lining up for a week ahead of time. For the Earn & Learn program with Hudson County Community College, the on-line application was opened and the portal had to be shut down in two hours due to the high response.

One gap we are eager to bridge is from the Vo-Tech programs to our apprenticeship program. Individuals have to be 18 years old and a high school graduate to enter an apprenticeship program, but some students are 17 when they graduate from Vo-Tech so we lose this cohort. We are trying to harmonize the end of Vo-Tech education with the beginning of an apprenticeship. Traditionally, our apprenticeship program begins in April. For the Earn & Learn program, we changed the start date to January to align with the academic calendar. Any changes to our apprenticeship programs must be approved by the federal government. Sometimes this process means that we can’t move as quickly as we would want.

People will tell me they can’t find workers, but we can get people; there is a lot of interest in our Operating Engineers apprenticeship program. Several of the other trade union apprenticeship programs are very competitive as well, including the Carpenters and the Ironworkers. The Carpenters union had an arrangement with East Brunswick Vo-Tech for direct entry to the union apprenticeship program for up to three students upon graduation from the carpentry program. The Vo-Tech sends students who are well-prepared and likely to succeed. I am trying to mirror that arrangement with Middlesex County Vo-Tech Career and Technical Education program.

Q. Do you see IUOE Local 825 collaborating with other institutions on similar programs in the future?

Absolutely and with multiple higher education partners and members of the business sector whom we have not yet identified. Hudson County Community College has a construction management program that offers 6-8 courses that build the “perfect operating engineer” and HCCC’s Lori Margolin and I are discussing how we could organize those courses together into a different type of degree program in the future. There are existing programs at other state education institutions that we have been considering as well. We might be able to take advantage of remote learning opportunities.

IUOE 825 will continue to look for opportunities to collaborate with HCCC and other higher education institutions.

IUOE 825 will continue to look for opportunities to collaborate with HCCC and other higher education institutions.

We are also very interested in the transportation-related activities at Rutgers-CAIT (Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation) and testing on bridge work. Rowan University has ongoing asphalt research and recently visited the IUOE training center to see if they could use some of the area for asphalt testing and of course we would support that.

Every year, we have a full-immersion asphalt paving class. A major manufacturer of paving equipment has been visiting our site in the past week teaching our journeyworkers and apprentices about the latest technology on their equipment. We have the equipment dealer with the product support staff and mechanics participate and share the service bulletins and the new information. And the dealers get the word out to members of the broader construction community who can attend these events.

These are ways we will continue to collaborate with the educational world and the business world in the future. We can leverage our 8,000 members, 1,400 employers, 120 pieces of heavy equipment, and 61 acres in New Jersey and 51 acres in the Hudson Valley. We have the laboratory and want to establish synergies and diverse partnerships to support the industry.

As the burgeoning field of automation and robotics for heavy equipment grows, I sit on an IUOE International subcommittee where we are discussing the skill sets and training needed to prepare an individual to be a successful remote equipment operator or REO. We can work with the computer engineers to let them know what aspects of heavy equipment operation may not be transferable to computers and what alternatives there might be to support their efforts.

Looking Ahead

Q. What strategies should be pursued to encourage more New Jerseyans to consider a career in the construction industry? Who should be leading or involved in those efforts?

A key reason why our organization migrated toward the higher education piece is because we believe that we will secure a more diverse population of job candidates by doing so. Specifically, offering an avenue to earn an Associate’s degree is helping to increase awareness for construction and operating engineer careers.

Students in Somerset County’s MEAM program participated in an Operating Engineer Awareness program and IUOE’s training facility.

Students in Somerset County’s MEAM program participated in an Operating Engineer Awareness program and IUOE’s training facility.

Moving forward, our long-term goal is to implement more of a college application process rather than continue the traditional apprentice application process.  We are also seeking partnerships with the Vo-Tech system since most of the traditional high schools do not have programs that align as well with our goals and needs.

I am on the Board of Somerset County Vo-Tech and my daughter is a guidance counselor at Middlesex County Vo-Tech so we know the system fairly well. We wanted to provide students from Somerset’s Mechatronics, Engineering and Advanced Manufacturing program (MEAM) an opportunity to learn about IUOE and visit our campus. In academic parlance, our program fits in the Advanced Manufacturing sector. I worked with the superintendent to secure a small grant for an Operating Engineer Awareness program at Somerset. We developed a curriculum to introduce the students interested in construction to the occupation of construction engineer, and transported the students to our campus to see and experience the equipment. We are also helping the district with OSHA training, and with welding, and are seeking other opportunities to work together. Ocean and Hunterdon Counties have Equipment Operator programs that are simulator-based but we have not yet received a lot of interest from them in working with us. East Brunswick Vo-Tech is very close to our campus and we have students visit from there as well.

Q. Through their on-the-job training and supportive services program, NJDOT is exploring ways to work with contractors, contracting associations, and unions on shaping their future workforces, by focusing on training and recruitment programs aimed at women, minorities, and others. Do you have any thoughts about how NJDOT might pursue this goal?

NJDOT should consider implementing several model project labor agreements, collaborating with the different trades, with all participants making a concerted effort to increase the number of women and minorities on a project. The outcome of this effort could be presented as a showcase and best practice example statewide. It is important to recognize that when we set the hiring goals to include a certain percentage of women and minorities, we have to plan to engage in a collaborative effort with the successful bidding contractor to reach those goals. Rather than penalize a contractor if they experience challenges in achieving the diversity goals, we need to determine strategies for how to reach them and secure their buy-in to reach these diversity goals.

Recently Issued TRB Publications and ASTM Standards

The NJDOT Research Library maintains a “Did You Know” page to share basic facts about the research library, transportation research resources, and newly issued publications.

The TRB Publications, January-February 2022 list includes recently published research in operations and traffic management, data information and technology, bridges and structures, pavements, bicycling and pedestrians, safety and human factors, and construction, among others.  The breadth of transportation research is on full display.  Recent papers cover such topics as unmanned aerials systems and bridge inspections; optimization modules for planning and programming of bridges; and safety and signal prioritization studies involving automated and connected vehicles; among other topics in this 125+ publication list.

One paper that caught our eye, "Enhanced Spatial–Temporal Map-Based Video Analytic Platform and Its Local- Versus Cloud-Based Deployment with Regional 511 Camera Network", explores the cloud- versus server-based deployment scenarios of an enhanced computer vision platform for potential deployment on low-resolution 511 traffic video streams.  The model evaluation described in the paper used videos from multiple cameras from the New Jersey Department of Transportation’s 511 traffic video surveillance system.

The ASTM Standards, September to December, 2021 list includes recently proposed and revised ASTM standards. The ASTM Book of Standards is available through the ASTM COMPASS Portal for NJDOT employees.

Please contact the NJDOT research librarian, Tammy Yeadon, MSLIS, at (609) 963-1898, or email at library@dot.nj.gov or Tammy_CNSLT.Yeadon@dot.nj.gov  for assistance on how to retrieve these or other publications.

Exploring Strategic Workforce Development: An Interview with the Office of Apprenticeship, NJ Department of Labor and Workforce Development (NJDOL)

FHWA is promoting Strategic Workforce Development in highway maintenance, construction and operations.

FHWA is promoting Strategic Workforce Development in highway maintenance, construction and operations.

Strategic Workforce Development, an FHWA Every Day Counts (EDC) Round 6 innovative initiative, anticipates collaboration between government agencies, trade organizations, private agencies and communities to prepare individuals for the construction workforce. The demand for workers in highway maintenance, construction and operations is growing, as is the demand for new skill sets required for  work with emerging technologies. An important element of this initiative is the recruitment and retention of women and minorities in the construction sector.  Through on-the-job training and supportive services program, NJDOT is exploring ways to work with contractors, contracting associations, and unions on shaping their future workforces, including programs aimed at increasing representation of women, minorities, and other disadvantaged populations in the construction and operations workforce.

We spoke with Nick Toth, Director, New Jersey Office of Apprenticeship, NJ Department of Labor and Workforce Development (NJDOL) to learn about the State’s role in funding, promoting, and providing technical assistance for on-the-job training programs, and pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs, to support all workers including women, minorities and other disadvantaged individuals seeking to enter highway construction and other related fields.

Background

Q.  Can you tell us a little bit about your role in the Office of Apprenticeship at the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development?

NJ DOL provides funding for apprenticeship and other training programs.

NJDOL has six grant programs to promote workforce development in the State.

I am the director of the New Jersey Office of Apprenticeship in the Department of Labor and Workforce Development. I was hired into this position to develop the first Office of Apprenticeship. In 2018, Governor Murphy announced the New Jersey Apprenticeship Network to invest in pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs throughout the state. We developed a host of grant programs and have grown from a staff of one to twelve people. We currently oversee six grants, including two grant programs for the New Jersey Builders Utilization for Labor Diversity (NJ Build) Program that came under our umbrella in the past year. We provide $10-15 million in grants each year focused on supporting pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs in varying employment sectors. The key tenet of our work is to build a stronger and fairer economy with greater equity, inclusion and diversity among participants. We also focus on removing the economic barriers that inhibit access to training.

Q. Our understanding is that NJDOL supports apprenticeship initiatives via grants but that the USDOL manages apprenticeship programs in the state. Is that accurate?

New Jersey operates as a federal state, with NJDOL providing technical assistance, funding, and marketing to support pre-apprenticeships and apprenticeships. However, the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL) is the registrar for NJ apprenticeship programs. There is no registration process for pre-apprenticeship programs. We work closely with USDOL and we have an employer engagement unit that works closely with NJ employers.

Seal of the United States Department of Labor

The USDOL is the registrar for NJ apprenticeship programs.

Q. What is the difference between the NJDOL Office of Apprenticeship and the New Jersey Apprenticeship Network?

The New Jersey Apprenticeship Network is a broad initiative focused on building partnerships and developing relationships to provide employment opportunities for New Jerseyans in a wide array of sectors. The Apprenticeship Office is part of the Network. We partner with employers, whether they are grantees or not, and we partner with other organizations.

Q. NJDOT is focused on recruiting and retaining workers in the highway construction industry. Based on your experience, is there a lack of awareness – especially among women and minority persons – for jobs and careers in the highway construction industry?   If so, do you know of programs that are building awareness for opportunities in transportation?

In general, there is a lack of awareness of what apprenticeships are and the opportunities available to workers. There is also a communication gap, both statewide and nationwide, related to the skilled trades. There is no solid messaging or awareness about the economic benefits of pursuing a trade or following a non-college path. I have not seen a concerted public awareness effort directed to women and minorities. But there’s a real economic argument to be made for apprenticeship programs. If you go through a structured apprenticeship program, you will experience hands-on training and receive a paycheck throughout the program. Some of these programs are four years and you will exit without any student loans. It is vital to better communicate and increase awareness among employers and prospective employees that apprenticeships are very different from internships.

Q. Several commonly cited roadblocks to entry into the construction sector, particularly for women and minority candidates, include transportation issues and childcare.   What strategies could help to address these issues?

I can confirm that transportation and childcare are the two most common barriers that are at the front of the discussion. For most of our grants, including the GAINS, PACE, and NJ PLACE 2.0 grants, budgeting for supportive services includes transportation and childcare as permissible uses of funds. Where our Office has leverage is in how we prescribe the way state funds can be used; we try to incentivize applicants to include this support for program participants as part of their application.

Q. Does your Office play a role in helping to reduce barriers for women, minorities, and others in entering the highway construction trades?  Also, we saw on your website that NJDOL has posted a notice of grant opportunity (January 31, 2022) called, “Women and minority groups in construction trades program.” Can you please tell us about this grant opportunity?

NJ Build Program grants are available to contractors in the construction and building trades and provide access to women and minorities to training.

NJ Build Program grants are available to contractors in the construction and building trades and provide access to women and minorities to training.

This grant opportunity is a NJ BUILD Program effort that has been available for a decade. Unfortunately, we receive low response rates to these grants which seem to be “the best kept workforce development secret,” as it can be difficult to get the word out to contractors and construction companies that are open to diversifying their workforce.

Any state agency can also apply for this grant and it is specifically written to provide access for women and minorities to apprenticeships or pre-apprenticeship training. The NJ BUILD grants are limited to the construction and building trades because of the way they are funded. By statute, a fee is assessed on public works contracts with a value above $1 million and these funds must be used for training of women and minorities in the field that is paying into that fund.

Q. We have heard that pre-apprenticeship programs are growing in popularity across the country and that NJ has the Pre-Apprenticeship in Education (PACE) program. Can you tell us about PACE and if the program focuses at all on highway construction trades in NJ?  

What are essential elements of a pre-apprenticeship program to help women, minorities, and others enter an apprenticeship program?  Are there programs that offer a direct connection between pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs?

With all our apprenticeship grants – everything outside of NJ BUILD – there is no specific focus on highway construction, but highway construction would fall under the heading of infrastructure. We would love to fund a workforce development program for those jobs, considering the federal dollars that will be coming to the state from the new federal infrastructure bill.

It is important to link pre-apprenticeship programs with apprenticeship programs so you don’t lose people between these programs. For example, in order to be eligible for a PACE grant – which is focused on high growth sectors including infrastructure – you have to have one established partnership with a registered apprenticeship program. We provide placement metric requirements to track how many pre-apprenticeship participants move to the apprenticeship program. But we also offer two other “off-ramps,” since sometimes not all participants will be able to move on to the apprenticeship, for example, if you have trained 50 people but your partner can only take 15 into their program. If participants go on to a job, a post-secondary program or career training program at a higher level, we count that as a good outcome as well.

Q. Are you aware of any model practices currently among community-based organizations to support women, minority, and others looking at the construction trades?

I use healthcare as an example. We have made significant headway in the number of women participating in registered healthcare apprenticeships, which has doubled from 6 percent to 12 percent. Some programs are over 90 percent women, with many minority participants.

Preparing students for jobs in the skilled trades is a good strategy to provide employment opportunities for all.

Preparing students for jobs in the skilled trades is a good strategy to provide employment opportunities for all.

Generally, there is less interest among job seekers in the building trades. Thirty years ago, pursuing a career in construction would have been considered on par with going to college, but we have changed a lot as a country.

From a union perspective, it would be great to see a more concerted effort to diversify union membership. But I understand that when you target economically depressed communities, there are existing barriers that inhibit people from applying. The unions need a qualified applicant pool. So, focusing on pre-apprenticeships and apprenticeships as a pipeline into the sector and building awareness among young adults in high school for careers in trade are valuable strategies. In addition, raising awareness for career opportunities in construction overall and to targeted audiences is also needed. High schools are not preparing students for jobs in the trades, but rather emphasize college placement, so there are structural issues contributing to the problem.

NJDOL Grant Initiatives

The Earn & Learn collaboration between HCCC and IUOE Local 825 is funded through a NJ Place 2.0 grant.

The Earn & Learn collaboration between HCCC and IUOE Local 825 is funded through a NJ Place 2.0 grant.

Q. The "Earn and Learn" program developed between the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 825 and Hudson County Community College (HCCC) is supported with a NJ PLACE 2.0 Degree Apprenticeship Program grant. Our understanding of this innovative program is that its aim is to integrate work-based learning with post-secondary education, allowing apprentices to earn college credits and an apprentice wage simultaneously.  Are both four-year and community colleges participating in this program?   Can grantees apply for continuing funding after their initial award is spent?

The genius of the NJ PLACE 2.0 grant program is that participants simultaneously earn course credit and a paycheck via this grant that incentivizes four-year and community colleges to collaborate with organizations that have a registered apprenticeship program. Participants pursue an Associate’s degree while being paid for on-the-job training.

If a grantee’s program is doing well, they could be eligible for additional funding. Ultimately, the goal of the Office is to distribute these grant dollars to applicants with promising initiatives designed to integrate work-based learning with post-secondary education.

Q. Another initiative that your Office oversees is the GAINS, or Growing Apprenticeships in Nontraditional Sectors, program. Our understanding is that GAINS is focused on training youth, adults, and incumbent workers by developing apprenticeship programs in a wide variety of in-demand fields. Is that accurate?  For how long have you been distributing these grants?

The GAINS program focuses on in-demand fields and the hiring of women, minorities, and other underrepresented groups.

The GAINS program focuses on in-demand fields and the hiring of women, minorities, and other underrepresented groups.

GAINS is our flagship grant program and the first one I worked on when I came into this job. As noted, it is focused on developing apprenticeship programs in fields that are in demand. We are in our fourth program year for this annual grant. We will soon announce a $3 million funding round and will probably have another round later in the fiscal year. We have had a good uptake in the program. This round we will fund apprenticeships in nursing residency, wastewater treatment, massage therapy, electrical, cybersecurity, and for machinists, home health aides, computer systems analysts, and ironworkers. We encourage all of our applicants to hire from diverse groups and our application evaluation criteria are based on inclusion of people of color, people with disabilities, women and veterans.

Q. How do you ensure compliance with these inclusion goals?

Registered apprenticeships are tracked through a national database. We require monthly reports from our grantees. The staff in the contracting unit validate the level of service.

Looking Ahead

Q. What strategies should be pursued to encourage more New Jerseyans to consider a career in the highway construction industry? Who should be leading or involved in those efforts?

Implementation of awareness campaigns, job fairs, rapid interviews, and events to learn about these careers can be effective. If NJDOT has openings, they can let NJDOL know. We can then reach out to the local One-Stops to request they send out an email blast statewide or to a particular geographic region alerting folks of these DOT job opportunities. We have done this for our grantees. If NJDOT has job openings, they can also advertise through the One-Stop Centers, and share eligibility requirements.

NJDOT should also engage in conversations with the contractors who are seeking workers for NJDOT contracts. The state has leverage in the contract requirements when contractors receive state dollars. Under a new law, which has been in effect the last two years, every contractor that has a public works certification, must participate in a registered apprenticeship program. In their procurement language, NJDOT can require the contractor to train their workers, or develop apprenticeships to pipeline people in, or partner with their local One-Stops, or include a local hire provision. Including these requirements can drive positive behavior among employers that can help to diversify the workforce.

Q. Through their on-the-job training and supportive services program, NJDOT is exploring ways to work with contractors, contracting associations, and unions on shaping their future workforces, by focusing on training and recruitment programs aimed at women, minorities, and others. Do you have any thoughts about how NJDOT might pursue this goal?  How could NJDOT partner more closely with your Office?

We had productive conversations with NJDOT when I came on the job, and I discussed our apprenticeship grants with them. NJ BUILD was not in my purview at the time. Our NJ BUILD programs are tailor-made for NJDOT. Philosophically, our two departments are aligned in wanting to accomplish the goal of having a more diverse workforce. NJDOT should definitely consider applying for some of our available grants as they are eligible to do so and we can cover some of the operational costs associated with the grants in some cases, including staffing costs. There’s a lot of opportunity there and it could be a win-win for NJDOT.

"Our programs are tailor-made for NJDOT. Philosophically, our two departments are aligned in wanting to accomplish the goal of having a more diverse workforce."

My team and I love to get in front of groups of NJ employers to discuss our grant opportunities. We have lots of mutual goals for increasing successful job recruitment and the diversity of the labor supply, none of which can occur without conversations with the employers. I’d be happy to spend time discussing NJ BUILD opportunities with construction companies that are already contributing to the state through the public works contract fee and with NJDOT, to share how our Office can support the training and upscaling of their workforce.

 


Resources

Federal Highway Administration, Every Day Counts Round 6, Strategic Workforce Development. https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/innovation/everydaycounts/edc_6/strategic_workforce_development.cfm

Hudson County Community College, Workforce Development. https://www.hccc.edu/programs-courses/workforce-development/index.html

International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 825. Earn and Learn Program. http://www.iuoe825.org/

NJ Department of Labor and Workforce Development, NJ PLACE 2.0 Grants. https://www.nj.gov/labor/lwdhome/press/2020/20200131_njplace.shtml

NJ Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Office of Apprenticeships. https://www.nj.gov/labor/career-services/apprenticeship/

NJ Department of Labor and Workforce Development, NJ Builders Utilization for Labor Diversity (NJBUILD),  Women and Minority Groups in Construction Trades.  Notice of Grant Opportunity, Fiscal Year 2022

Engaging Youth in Transportation Planning – NJ MPO Efforts Featured

FHWA promotes virtual public involvement and innovative public engagement strategies through its Every Day Counts (EDC-6) innovations. The FHWA's EDC Newsletter of March 3, 2022 featured the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority's creative efforts to engage youth in the transportation planning process in the development of the MPO's Long Range Plan that were conducted in partnership with the Rutgers University's Public Engagement and Outreach Team (POET).  Below is a reprint of the newsletter article that recognizes these efforts as its Virtual Public Involvement (VPI) Innovation of the Month.

Because engaging youth in the transportation planning process is notoriously difficult, the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority (NJTPA) used a broad range of engagement tools when developing its long-range transportation plan, Plan 2050. They held focus groups with traditionally underserved demographic groups, created a young adult advisory group, and held online meetings to engage broad audiences. NJTPA also held an innovative online contest for children ages 5 - 15, the OnAir Future of Transportation contest, which allowed children to be creative, while also participating in the planning process.

The NJTPA promoted the contest through its email and social media channels. It also partnered with the Rutgers University Public Outreach and Engagement Team to promote the contest with community-based organizations, elementary and middle school teachers, community websites that promote children’s activities, and programs for youth with disabilities.

 

Left: One of the winning submissions from the OnAir Future of Transportation contest. Right: OnAir Future of Transportation honorable mention winner. (Credit: NJTPA)

Participants submitted drawings, animated videos, poems, short stories, and more, describing their visions for transportation in 2050. Responses were collected via email, physical mail, and voicemail. Entries were divided by age groups, with winners selected in each group.

Contest submissions included some highly futuristic visions of flying cars, hover chairs, and teleportation, which the NJTPA considered to be a bit out of reach for its 2050 planning timeframe. However, several themes emerged in the contest submissions that mirrored public input from adults. Contest submissions showed that kids have a desire for faster, more reliable transportation options that are comfortable and convenient, and a future that uses technology to make life easier, safer, more equitable, sustainable, and fun.

Recommendations for autonomous vehicles, micromobility, and sustainability were incorporated into Plan 2050 based on the adults’ and children’s input. The On Air Future of Transportation contest raised awareness of the NJTPA and their work, especially to parents, teachers, and other adults involved in outreach, and provides an innovative example of using virtual public involvement (VPI) techniques to engage a difficult-to-reach segment of the population.

To learn more about VPI and other innovative examples of its use, please contact Lana Lau, FHWA Office of Project Development & Environmental Review, or Jill Stark, FHWA Office of Planning, Stewardship & Oversight.

 

 

 

New Jersey STIC Incentive Project Grant Funding Available

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) offers technical assistance and funds—up to $100,000 per year to each STIC—to support the costs of standardizing innovative practices in a state transportation agency or other public sector STIC stakeholder.

NJDOT is the primary recipient of the STIC Incentive Funding Grant. Other public sector STIC stakeholders such as MPOs, local governments or tribal governments are eligible to receive STIC Incentive funding as sub-recipients to the NJDOT.

Proposed project ideas for funding are prioritized by the NJ STIC for each federal fiscal year. Selected projects are then submitted to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) for approval.

Purpose

To be eligible, a project or activity must have a statewide impact in fostering a culture for innovation or in making an innovation a standard practice and must align with FHWA’s Technology Innovation Deployment Program (TIDP) goals.

STIC Incentive Funding may be used to: conduct internal assessments; build capacity; develop guidance, standards, and specifications; implement system process changes; organize peer exchanges; offset implementation costs; or conduct other activities the STIC identifies to address TIDP goals and to foster a culture of innovation or to make an innovation a standard practice in New Jersey.

The proposed project or activity must be started as soon as practical (preferably within 6 months of award, but no later than 1 year) after notification of approval for STIC Incentive funding and funds must be expended within 2 years.

Past and Recent Projects

NJ STIC Incentive Funds have been used to hold safety-related peer exchanges with local governments, integrate mobile devices into construction-related inspections, test crowdsourcing equipment to improve safety of service patrols, and launch the NJDOT Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Program, among other projects

More recently, funded projects have sought to advance implementation of the Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) Strategic Plan through additional training and equipment, develop and implement a NJ STIC Communications Plan, develop a training for local agencies to use Bluebeam to advance e-Construction, and to establish a pilot study for enhanced crowdsourcing for operations.

How to Apply

The solicitation of STIC Incentive projects opens at the beginning of the Federal fiscal year (October 1st) and closes at the end of the Federal fiscal year (September 30th).  All proposals should be submitted for review by March 30th. If funding is available, proposals may be considered after this date.

More information on allowable activities, incentive funding proposal requirements, and a list of past projects that have received funding in New Jersey can be found here:  https://www.njdottechtransfer.net/new-jersey-stic-requests/.

If you have questions about your project’s eligibility for the STIC Incentive Program, email us: Bureau.Research@dot.nj.gov or call us: 609-963-2242.

The STIC Incentive Funding Grant was used to develop and implement the NJ STIC Communications Plan. 

The STIC Incentive Funding Grant was used to purchase equipment and implement training for the UAS Program at NJDOT.