NJ STIC 2nd Quarter 2022 Meeting

The NJ State Transportation Innovation Council (NJ STIC) held its second Quarterly Meeting of CY 2022 on June 15, 2022. The STIC Meeting Agenda had been distributed to the invitees prior to the meeting. Attendees to the online meeting had opportunities to offer comments or ask questions, or use the chat feature.

Brandee Chapman, NJDOT's Innovation Coordinator, greeted the meeting participants and facilitated the meeting procedings. Michael Russo, NJDOT Assistant Commissioner, provided Welcome and Opening Remarks.

FHWA EDC Innovation. Helene Roberts, FHWA's Innovation Coordinator and Performance Manager, noted that there are six months left in EDC-6 and the EDC-7 cycle will be beginning in January 2023. She does not have information about the specific innovations that will be part of the next cycle. The EDC-7 Summit will probably be held in early December as a virtual event and will be followed by a NJ Caucus where the NJ STIC will discuss the opportunities and barriers of these new innovation initiatives and consider what initiatives New Jersey should pursue.

Ms. Roberts noted that New Jersey was a featured state at the National STIC meeting held on June 1st.   The NJ STIC presentation team highlighted several initiatives including the Let’s Go Workshop, the Communications Plan, and the UAS Program.  A recording of the National STIC meeting and the NJ presentation can be found here.

Core Innovation Area (CIA) Updates. The meeting continued with presentations from Core Innovative Area (CIA) leaders who provided updates of the status of EDC initiatives on the topics of Safety, Infrastructure Preservation, Mobility and Operations, and Organizational Improvement and Support.

The Safety update provided a timely overview of a new federal program, Safe Streets and Roads for All (SS4A), authorized under the Bi-Partisan Infrastructure Bill.  Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) and Local Governments are among the eligible recipients for planning and action implementation grants for safety improvements.  A Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) was recently issued, and the briefing presentation covered, among other topics, eligibility requirements, funding levels, grant types, cost share and match provisions, and key deadline dates for questions and submissions.

The Earn and Learn Program, an innovative partnership of the HCCC and IUOE, draws the upon a state labor grant, NJ PLACE 2.0.

Featured Presentation – Strategic Workforce Development.  The featured presentation(s) explored the potential roles of community college, union and state agencies in establishing workforce training and apprenticeship programs to meet the needs of 21st Century construction jobs in transportation.  The presentations were given by Lori Margolin, Associate Vice President, Continuing Education and Workforce Development, Hudson County Community College (HCCC); Nick Toth, Director, Office of Apprenticeships, NJ Department of Labor & Workforce Development (NJDOL); and Greg Lalevee, Business Manager, International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 825.

Feature Presentation #1 - Continuing Education & Workforce Development, Hudson Community College. Ms. Margolin described the mission of the college and her office focusing on student success and diversity, equity and inclusion. She spoke about the Earn & Learn program, an innovative dual education program created with the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 825 that allows individuals to earn an Associates degree while gaining hands-on instruction and earning a paycheck in the Union’s apprenticeship program. For this initiative, Hudson County Community College (HCCC) developed a new concentration within the Technical Studies degree major tailored to the needs of IUOE Local 825. Participants are supported through funding from Local 825 and a NJ Department of Labor PLACE 2.0 grant. Ms. Margolin’s office works with employers who are having trouble finding eligible workers. HCCC builds training programs which include experiential learning and create career pathways for students, identifies a diverse pool of candidates, and develops short-term solutions while building a talent pipeline. HCCC is the administrative lead for the Construction Center for Workforce Innovation created this year as part of the NJ Pathways to Career Opportunities Program. The Center will focus on expanding career pathways in construction, creating new partnerships with K-12 schools and 4-year colleges and universities, and expanding the dual education program with new partners.

Virtual Reality (VR) is being used by the IUOE to prepare workforce for operating the equipment and technology of the 21st Century.

Feature Presentation #2 - NJ Department of Labor & Workforce Development, Office of Apprenticeships.  Mr. Toth noted that the Murphy administration’s prioritization of apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeship programs resulted in the creation of the Office of Apprenticeship in the NJ Department of Labor (NJDOL) in 2018. The Office partners with US Department of Labor, and is the one-stop shop for NJ employers, nonprofits, and educational institutions that are working with registered apprenticeships, a formal program that advances workforce development. NJDOL is seeking to expand apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeship in high-growth fields. The Office of Apprenticeship seeks to be the connection between educational institutions, employers and advocacy organizations. Mr. Toth reviewed several of the specific programs offered including GAINS, NJ PLACE 2.0, and NJ BUILD. These programs ensure that employers get the talent they need and, with an emphasis on equity and inclusion, provide entry points for everyone. All grants have language that helps to remove economic barriers to training and upskilling through targeted investments. He discussed pre-apprenticeship programs that provide classroom training and curriculum, strategies for long-term success, access to support services, hands-on training, facilitated entry, and occupation-specific training.

Mr. Toth noted that a fairly new requirement of Public Works Contractor Registration is participation in a registered apprenticeship program. The program is one means by which the state of New Jersey can maximize benefits to NJ residents when spending state resources. The contractors that NJDOT is working with have to comply with this new law, and the Office of Apprenticeship can work with these contractors, and provide funding to help them comply with the law. The number of registered apprenticeship programs has increased by 77 percent since Gov. Murphy took office and NJDOL has doubled the number of women in registered apprenticeship programs.

The IUOE Training Facility offers "hands-on" opportunities for using milling and pavement equipment in the winter months.

Feature Presentation #3 - International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE). Mr. Lalevee began by explaining that the IUOE is comprised of heavy equipment operators who build the critical infrastructure that NJ residents use every day. Mr. Lalevee noted that Local 825 assesses market needs in order to create a 21st Century workforce that can work on future transportation, energy, and clean water projects. Local 825 chose to establish a technical college that would upskill union members to gain competence with new technology including artificial intelligence, full robotic controls, GPS controls, among others. The Union sees value in partnering with the county Vo-Tech schools to provide a pipeline of future participants for its apprenticeship program. The Union recently hired an in-house academic to create curricula and build partnership, such as the Earn & Learn program developed with HCCC. Mr. Lalevee described their training facilities and equipment in South Brunswick. He noted that two significant barriers to entry to apprenticeships have been transportation and childcare. Part of the incentive for establishing a technical college was to take advantage of NJDOL programs to fund transportation for program participants. He noted that apprenticeships at IUOE Local 825 are in demand.

Mileage-Based User Fee Pilot Program. Zenobia Fields, NJDOT Director of Government and Community Relations, announced that Eastern Transportation Coalition and NJDOT are launching Phase 4 of the Mileage-Based User Fee Pilot Program. Current funding for transportation infrastructure comes from the gas tax. With a shift to electric and hybrid vehicles, a new funding approach is needed. With an MBUF program, drivers pay for the miles they travel. NJDOT is looking for 400 members of the general public to register for the pilot. Go to the website for more information and to sign up by July 31st to participate.

Reminders and Updates. Ms. Chapman closed the meeting with information and reminders on the online location of several resources that highlight the NJ STIC and other innovation topics funded through research and technology transfer activities, including:

The NJ STIC Innovative Initiatives Survey has been distributed via email. Responses will be shared at a future STIC meeting and innovative initiatives will be featured through the NJDOT Technology Transfer program. Please share the survey with your networks – the target audience is members of local public agencies, MPOs and other transportation professionals. Responses are due by July 15th.  Use this link to the NJ STIC Innovative Initiatives Survey.

The Bureau of Research has prepared a NJ nomination for the 2022 STIC Excellence Award and named several initiatives including the creation of the new CIA Team, the Innovation Coordinator position, and the STIC Communications Plan, piloting of the Let’s Go Workshop, the EDC-6 Caucus, and the NJ highlight at the National STIC meeting, among other accomplishments. The nomination will be circulating soon for signature and endorsement.

Ms. Chapman noted that STIC Incentive Program funding is available. The program provides up to $100,000 per state. Applications are due by August 2022. Local Public Agencies are eligible to apply. The NJDOT Bureau of Research has developed a set of guidelines for project administration for selected projects.

Sal Cowan spoke in recognition of Sue Catlett who is retiring from NJDOT after 39 years of service.

Amanda Gendek, Manager of the NJDOT Bureau of Research, and Mike Russo provided closing remarks.

 

A recording of the NJ STIC June 2022 meeting can be found here.

 

The Meeting Presentations can be found in its entirety here and or in sections below.

NJ STIC June 2022 Meeting Recording

Slide image reading: Welcome, Mike Russo, Assistant Commissioner, NJDOT Planning, Multimodal & Grant AdministrationWelcome Remarks

Slide image reading: FHWA Updates, Helene Roberts, P.E., Innovation Coordinator & Performance Manager, FHWA, NJ Division OfficeFHWA EDC Innovation Updates

Slide image reading: CIA Team Safety NJDOT - Dan LiSanti, FHWA - Keith SkiltonCIA Team Update: Safety

CIA Team Update: Infrastructure Preservation

CIA Team Update: Organizational Improvement and Support

Slide image reading CIA Team Mobility & Ops NJDOT - Sue Catlett, FHWA - Ek PhomsavathCIA Team Update: Mobility and Operations

Feature Presentation: Strategic Workforce Development

Announcement: Mileage-Based User Fee Pilot Program

Reminders, Announcements, and Thank You

Exploring Strategic Workforce Development – Model Programs, Partnerships and Lessons from Oregon

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 firms 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 interviewed representatives from Oregon’s Department of Transportation (ODOT) and Bureau of Labor & Industries (BOLI), including Angela Crain (ODOT Civil Rights Manager), Cye Fink (ODOT Workforce Development and Civil Rights/EE Manager) and Larry Williams (BOLI, Operations and Policy Analyst).  We sought to explore the distinct roles and partnership between the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) and Oregon Bureau of Labor & Industries (BOLI) 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.

Highway Construction Workforce Development Program

Q. Can you please share with us, based on your experience, your thoughts on what seems to be an overall lack of awareness– especially among women and minority persons – of jobs or careers in the highway construction industry?

The ODOT Office of Civil Rights uses FHWA funding to support On the Job Training and Supportive Services.

The ODOT Office of Civil Rights uses FHWA funding to support On the Job Training and Supportive Services.

The lack of awareness primarily stems from the school systems. For years, school guidance counselors have not promoted any path but college to most of their students.  Highway construction is presented as a viable career only to those students who are not going on to college.

We work to raise awareness of careers in highway construction by disseminating information on these opportunities to school counselors and parents, as they are the support system for children. Careers in highway construction offer competitive paying jobs with family- supporting wages. We are trying to reach the students, beginning at the elementary school level because, unless students know someone who works in construction, they are mostly unaware of the career options in the field.

Some of the most successful linkages have been made by teachers who work in construction during the summer months and bring their experience back to the students. For example, they will use construction-related math curricula in the classroom. Shop classes, which were useful in helping students become familiar with tools and various trades, are rarely offered anymore due to budget cuts.

Information about the majority of our DOT programs is spread by word of mouth. We use the testimonials of individuals who have been through our programs, and we do a lot of outreach to communicate personal success stories of program participants. We also work with our partners, Building Trades Councils of Oregon, Akana, Oregon Tradeswomen, and other stakeholders and agencies, to get the word out. And we, of course, participate in career fairs, and high school Career and Technical Education programs to build the career pipeline. As far as encouraging Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) and women candidates, our numbers are growing steadily each year with more starting and finishing our programs, but the ratio is still not where we want it to be.

The Oregon Bureaus of Labor & Industries is responsible for pre-pre-apprenticeship, pre-apprenticeship, and apprenticeship programs.

The Oregon Bureau of Labor & Industries is responsible for pre-pre-apprenticeship, pre-apprenticeship, and apprenticeship programs.

Q. We understand that 2009 legislation created Oregon’s Highway Construction Workforce Development Program (HCWDP) designed to diversify six heavy construction trades related to highway construction including carpenters and cement masons. This nationally recognized innovative initiative enables registered apprentices and those preparing to enter an apprenticeship in one of these trades to receive support in ten areas, including child care, travel expenses, lodging/meal allowance, tools, and PPE, among others. Are all of these efforts supported through HCWDP?

We use FHWA and state dollars to fund the program and follow federal regulations (23 CFR Part 230) that lay out what these 10 supportive services have to look like. In 2009, the Oregon legislature passed a bill that required ODOT to provide On-the-Job Training and workforce development supportive services, applying language from the federal regulations. Once this law was established there could be no question that the funding would be dedicated to the program rather than other priorities, such as road repair. Since this focus on workforce development is embedded in Oregon statute, ODOT has a pathway for consistent funding.

In 2016 we added hardship assistance to the list of available supports offered by HCWDP. Overall, we are working to support people in getting on a career track by offering supportive services that enable them to stay in the programs and eventually reach journey worker status, which offers meaningful long-term career development. The heavy highway trades are the focus of the program because the workers are mobile. Although there may be layoffs or projects end, as long as they stay in the system, participants will continue to have the opportunity to work on ODOT projects so they can graduate to journey worker status.

Q. ODOT and the BOLI have partnered to meet the goals of adding more diversity in hiring, increasing apprenticeship numbers and providing resources for training. What have been the key benefits of ODOT partnering with BOLI?

Our partnership with BOLI has been vital to our success. In Oregon, BOLI oversees apprenticeships and approves pre-apprenticeship programs. BOLI’s key value to HCWDP comes from their connections with their subcontractors who have experience in promoting and supporting workforce development in the highway construction trades, particularly among women and minorities. BOLI works with the contractors affiliated with the training programs, has authority over the contractors, and maintains a database to track the apprentices. When workers graduate to the journey worker level, they can work anywhere within the state and nationwide. This program offers meaningful, long-term career development.

The ODOT/BOLI collaboration provides needed supports to help people stay in the apprenticeship programs.

The ODOT/BOLI collaboration provides needed supports to help people stay in the apprenticeship programs.

There is no value in ODOT having its own apprenticeship-type programs when BOLI is providing them in alignment with US DOL. We at ODOT are embedding elements in the program including respectful workplaces, Green Dot, Riseup, and third party oversight through Portland State University, who are helping us with planning. Additionally, BOLI receives grants to target particular workforce areas; they leverage our resources at ODOT, while we simultaneously leverage their resources.

From the BOLI perspective, the partnership with ODOT allows BOLI to provide the support side to the apprenticeship programs. If you have the apprentices out there, you need to have the supports in place to help them succeed.

In most cases, BOLI has closed gaps in terms of completion rates for underrepresented demographic groups. For African American men, there has been improvement, but we want to close the gap further. There may be barriers that still need to be addressed. In addition, we have shown that the program works, as it is improving success rates, but it is only available to those apprentices associated with the highway construction trades. For example, we provide child care for a cement mason but not a brick mason. That is an area of concern for BOLI as they seek to determine ways to provide similar supports for other trades moving forward.

Apprenticeships and Pre-apprenticeships

Q. ODOT and BOLI have focused on improving opportunities for individuals who graduate from a pre-apprenticeship program to get more trade-specific training and improved access to registration into a highway trade apprenticeship program. What can you share about this work?

Apprenticeships in Oregon are regulated and supported by BOLI and offer on the job training and classroom training and typically require 2-5 years to complete and may be union-based or open shop. We focus on connecting pre-apprenticeships and apprenticeships.

Under the BOLI umbrella, there are apprenticeship, pre-apprenticeship, and pre-pre-apprenticeship programs. Pre-pre-apprenticeships help people overcome basic gaps to complete prerequisites needed for pre-apprenticeships, such as needing a driver’s license, GED or high school diploma. The pre-apprenticeship might provide skills training for those who need hours learning to use tools.

We have worked on direct entry with some of the trades so individuals can join an apprenticeship program without completing the ranking process or interview because the pre-apprenticeship has helped them prepare for the job, with some individuals also bringing work history that enables them to skip one or more levels of training. They have to complete the application and meet minimum qualifications that can be simply being 18 years old and having a high school diploma or GED, and in other cases, may require a minimum level of math proficiency, for example.

Q. Is this effort the same as, or part of, your On-the-Job Training (OJT)? Could you speak about your On-the-Job Training (OJT) program?

Supportive services can increase diversity in apprenticeship programs and the highway construction workforce.

Supportive services can increase diversity in apprenticeship programs and the highway construction workforce.

On-the-Job Training/Supportive Services program funding from FHWA is internally directed to STEM/Engineering outreach, recruitment, and support. OJT is a very small piece of what we at ODOT do; only about two people every year go through this OJT training because most contractors are affiliated with a formal apprenticeship program.

ODOT and FHWA created OJT for candidates with no experience to offer them a chance to begin work with a contractor directly. As part of the federal regulations, OJT is provided through each project. If the contractor awarded the contract has no affiliation as a training agent themselves or they are not Oregon-based, and have no formal apprenticeship program, they can use one of our in-house training programs to fulfill the contractual requirement.

It is the small contractor or the first-time prime who would use this OJT option.  We provide some incentives, including reimbursing $20/hour for every apprenticeship hour. An individual with no prior experience who applies off the street with that contractor must receive training. The contractor is paying journey worker level pay, and OJT does provide a means to recruit candidates from underrepresented groups. It’s a business choice that the contractor makes. The 2,000-hour OJT program trains for labor skills sets, and we also have a 6,000-hour construction project management program. This informal training is not tied to a path to journey worker status but there is the potential for the individual to have direct entry into the apprenticeship system after completing the OJT training.

Q. We know that reliable transportation and childcare are often cited as roadblocks to entry into the construction sector, particularly for women and minority candidates. Can you tell us how supportive services such as childcare and payment of travel costs help sustain apprentices?

Offering incentives and support services for apprentices is critical to their success. Childcare is a big issue. It’s not only single moms who face childcare challenges, but any single parent and/or underemployed families. Awareness of the HCWDP childcare support options has spread through word of mouth.

Work hours for highway construction are long. For example, apprentices may leave their house at 4:00 am to travel 40 miles to the worksite and work 10-hours. The challenges for us in supporting childcare include the costs and finding a provider that has capacity and offers their services in off-peak hours. ODOT/BOLI uses the state childcare provider certification system to identify providers. We give incentives to providers so that they can offer alternative hours to accommodate the long work days. We don’t have enough funds to subsidize all the childcare needed. Childcare is provided using a BOLI-determined sliding scale formula based on economic need and wage rate; the support level declines as the individuals progress through the system and earn higher wages.

The Pre-Apprenticeship Child Care Initiative (PACCI) program began as a pilot to provide childcare supports to pre-apprentices but is now a part of the general operation. Pre-apprenticeship programs, which are often 8-12 week courses in the classroom, may provide on-site child care. We are indirectly supporting these childcare opportunities.

Everything we do helps keep people on the path to journey work. With the regional wildfires displacing workers, we have been distributing hardship funds. Apprentices are eligible for this support. The transition between pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeships is accomplished through Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committees (JATCs) and we work with them to connect to the primes and contractors. There is usually a waiting list of apprentices available.

One difficult challenge that we are seeing is that primes are looking for apprentices with three to four years of experience. They have less incentive to pick up the first-year apprentices who will require more supervision and training. We are trying to address this issue and find ways to support these individuals within the system to acquire experience.

BOLI helps individuals find where to start on the path to a journeyworker position and, through its partners, provides support along the way.

BOLI helps individuals find where to start on the path to a journeyworker position and, through its partners, provides support along the way.

Q. What can you share with us about the newer “Build your future. Build Oregon.” initiative and what special efforts are being undertaken to generate interest among underrepresented demographic groups?

ODOT receives federal and state funding for the workforce development program. Through an interagency agreement BOLI provides contract administration and ODOT holds BOLI accountable for the 10 required support areas of the program. BOLI then contracts out all these deliverables through a competitive process. We collaborate with BOLI on the subcontracting deliverables At any one time, BOLI might have six to eight subcontractors. One of the partners, Akana, embraced how to implement all these support services through one of these contracts, and they branded the supportive services piece as “Build your future. Build Oregon.” This effort has helped broadcast information about the workforce development program throughout Oregon and helps make more people aware of various program elements and assistance available.

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

Three Oregon-based organizations that provide support for underrepresented populations are: Oregon Tradeswomen which helps women build economic independence; Constructing Hope which is a pre-apprenticeship program in Portland; and Akana which is a Native American-owned, private sector, for-profit organization.

To increase awareness in careers in construction, Akana presents a podcast occasionally. Oregon Tradeswomen historically runs a women and trades fair with dedicated times for adults and for students. This is an opportunity for individuals to meet with people in the trades and talk about those trades and what careers paths they offer. (The fair has been on hiatus due to Covid-19.)

Q. How do you reach people who are no longer in school?

The average age for apprentices is 29 for males, and a little older for women. Some are seeking a second career, or maybe they have some construction experience, but it was limited to residential construction. To raise awareness of the HCWDP program, we work with various membership groups including: the National Association of Minority Contractors; Portland business development groups; Project Working Groups; Chambers of Commerce; veterans; advisory groups; and Tribal Employment Rights Ordinance programs on and near tribal reservations.

We have found that it is important to help people know where to start. We are working on simplifying the on-ramp to the whole system and providing a flow chart to help describe access to the system. We are looking forward to in-person recruitment events again after the last couple of years of virtual meetings.

Looking Ahead

Q. Do you have any concluding thoughts or advice on what strategies NJDOT can pursue to encourage more New Jerseyans to consider a career in the construction industry?

Seek and access the available FHWA funding, and direct it to your workforce development or OJT/Supportive Services programs. You can accomplish what we have in Oregon without legislative mandates. A lot of states work off their annual FHWA allocation but this would be only about $78,000 for Oregon – definitely not enough to build a workforce development program. Instead, work with your organization and your FHWA division field office to access other federal funding and more recently available Infrastructure and Investment Jobs Act (IIJA) dollars.  Without these additional funds, we would not have adequate funding for all our programs and to grow the pipeline and help people move to journey worker status.

In terms of career progression opportunities beyond journey worker, participants could start their own business, maybe becoming a DBE or WBE, and graduate from a DBE program and become a contractor.

It is important to recognize that time is needed to measure success of initiatives like HCWDP, as participants will need two to six years to progress through the system. We have been at this for years and have dedicated partners. You need the sustained funding. There will be no big impact achieved if you can only give out a little bit of money each year to support efforts.

Resources

Akana
http://akana.us/
http://akana.us/odot-boli-main/odot-boli-apprentices/
http://akana.us/odot-boli-main/odot-boli-applicants/

Constructing Hope
https://www.constructinghope.org/

Federal Highway Administration On the Job Training and Supportive Services
https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/civilrights/programs/ojt.cfm

National Association of Minority Contractors
https://namcnational.org/

ODOT/BOLI Highway Construction Workforce Development Program Final Report IAA 30668 July 2015 – June 2017
https://www.oregon.gov/odot/Business/OCR/SiteAssets/Pages/Workforce-Development/ODOT_BOLI_Highway_Construction_Workforce_Development_Program_2017.pdf

Oregon State Building Trades Council
https://www.oregonbuildingtrades.com/

Oregon Tradeswomen
https://oregontradeswomen.org/

Real Help for Working Oregonians – The BOLI_ODOT Workforce Development Program
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2sNS5xV9Pa8

National STIC Network Meeting – June 2022 (Recording)

The National STIC Network Meeting was held on June 1,  2022. The activities and accomplishments of the New Jersey STIC were featured during this national event. The FHWA has posted a recording of the meeting for those who may have missed it, National STIC Network Meeting – June 1, 2022 (Recording).

The NJ STIC team’s presenters highlighted the NJ STIC Communications Plan, the Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Program and its participation with the FHWA in piloting a “Let’s Go Workshop” – a team-building and strategy setting exercise for advancing the deployment of select innovations. The NJ STIC presentation can be found here.

 

 

National Operations Center Webinar to Feature NJDOT’s Commercial Vehicle Alerts Initiative

The National Operations Center for Excellence will hold a webinar featuring New Jersey and Colorado DOT initiatives to establish private sector partnerships that use crowdsourced data to deliver real-time information to commercial vehicles to improve the safety of all road users.  Transportation agencies can now deliver in-cab alerts about road conditions through connected truck service providers to help commercial vehicle drivers approach and react more quickly to roadway incidents, work zones, and adverse weather conditions. Follow this link to register for the Crowdsourced Data for Commercial Vehicles webinar.

At the 1st Quarter 2022 STIC meeting, attendees received a briefing about the Commercial Vehicle Alerts initiative being undertaken by NJDOT and its several partners to proactively deploy alerts to improve safety and traffic incident management. Sal Cowan, NJDOT Senior Director, Transportation Mobility, was joined by Amy Lopez, Director, Public Sector Services and Smart City Strategy for INRIX, and Marc Nichols, Director, Government & Industry Partnerships for Drivewyze.

For more information about the Commercial Vehicle Alerts initiative, their presentation is here and a summary of the NJ STIC meeting that includes a recording of their featured presentation is here.

UHPC Bridge Preservation and Repair – NJ Efforts Highlighted

FHWA promotes UHPC for Bridge Preservation & Repair through its Every Day Counts (EDC-6) innovations. The FHWA's EDC Newsletter of April 28, 2022 featured Rutgers University's state-of-the-art Bridge Evaluation and Accelerated Structural Testing (BEAST) center.  FHWA has sponsored the use of the BEAST to evaluate emerging bridge preservation technologies including UHPC.  Below is a reprint of the newsletter article that recognizes these efforts as its Innovation of the Month for UHPC Bridge Preservation and Repair.

BEAST® Facility (Credit: Rutgers University)

Wouldn’t it be great to quickly test the performance of a UHPC bridge deck overlay? It can be challenging to test and evaluate the long-term performance of new bridge preservation innovations because it would normally take years of monitoring the in-service behavior of such a technology on actual bridge structures to make an adequate assessment. Alternatively, Rutgers University’s state-of-the-art Bridge Evaluation and Accelerated Structural Testing (BEAST®) center provides a new opportunity to evaluate emerging preservation technologies. Built in 2015, the BEAST facility aims to develop high-quality data of bridge deterioration and to expand our knowledge of bridge performance through full-scale accelerated testing. The facility is capable of enclosing a 50-foot long bridge within an environmental chamber and subjecting the bridge to realistic rolling wheel loads, freeze-thaw cycles, and even the application of deicing chemicals. As a result, this facility can impose 10 to 20 years of ageing in less than 12 months.

FHWA is sponsoring the first project to utilize the BEAST® facility, and seeks to establish the long-term performance of bare reinforced concrete bridge decks and overlay systems among other variables. A two lane, 50 foot simply-supported bridge built with steel girders was constructed and began accelerated testing in 2019. To date, it’s been subjected to over 2-million passes of rolling load, 85 freeze-thaw cycles, and over 3000 gallons of salt brine. As a result, deck deterioration has reached a point where, in practice, an overlay would commonly be installed for rehabilitation and preservation purposes.

Rolling-Load Assembly in BEAST® Lab (left); Bridge Specimen in BEAST® Lab (right) (Credit: Rutgers University)

UHPC is one of the overlay systems that will be installed on this bridge specimen for evaluation. The UHPC overlay will be installed using materials and construction practices that are commonly deployed in the field. Once installed, accelerated testing will resume for at least 12 months, or until significant deterioration is again observed. Data will be collected, which will help establish quantitative measure of the overlays’ ability to perform long-term and under realistic conditions. Data already shows that UHPC is long-lasting and resilient, but at the end of this research, researchers will be able to say with greater confidence how long UHPC overlays may last in service.

For more information on UHPC for Bridge Preservation & Repair, contact Zach Haber, FHWA Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center, or Justin Ocel, FHWA Resource Center.

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

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.

NJ STIC 1st Quarter 2022 Meeting

The NJ State Transportation Innovation Council (NJ STIC) convened online for the 1st Quarter Meeting on March 16, 2022. The STIC Meeting Agenda had been distributed to the invitees prior to the meeting. Participants could use the chat feature to offer comments or ask questions of the speakers during the online meeting.

Amanda Gendek, Manager of the NJDOT Bureau of Research greeted the meeting participants, followed by Andy Swords, Director, Division of Statewide Planning, who provided the Welcome and Opening Remarks.

Ms. Gendek then introduced Brandee Chapman who has recently been hired as the NJDOT Innovation Coordinator. Ms. Gendek noted the importance of dedicated innovation staff and thanked NJDOT administration for supporting this position. Ms. Chapman will eventually become the NJ STIC Coordinator and NJDOT’s Innovation Subject Matter Expert and will support the Bureau of Research in becoming a hub of innovation.

FHWA EDC Innovations Update. Helene Roberts, Innovation Coordinator and Performance Manager for the FHWA NJ Office, reported on the status of progress on EDC initiatives. She thanked the CIA Team Leaders and SMEs for their progress report and efforts. She noted that there are only nine months left in the two-year EDC-6 cycle and observed that there may be more progress being made than has been reported.

Ms. Roberts and Ms. Gendek made a call for Every Day Counts Round 7 ideas with a focus on Safety, Equity, and Sustainable and Resilient Infrastructure.  The deadline for submitting suggestions for Round 7 innovations is April 11, 2022. Ms. Roberts explained that FHWA is looking for innovations that are "market-ready" — that is, they have been proven in deployment but are currently underutilized among the states.  Through an extensive vetting process, FHWA will pare down the list from the call for ideas to approximately 10 innovations. Ms. Gendek added that if you have an innovation that requires a little more research to be ready for implementation, please send the idea to her at NJDOT Bureau of Research.

Ms. Roberts and Ms. Gendek engaged the NJ STIC meeting attendees with an Interactive exercise. Click for results.

Ms. Roberts and Ms. Gendek reminded everyone that New Jersey will be a featured state at the next National STIC meeting on June 1, 2022 at 2.00 PM.  They asked those in attendance to pull out their cell phones and participate in an interactive exercise seeking suggestions on possible topics and innovative initiatives that NJ should highlight during the national meeting.

Core Innovation Area (CIA) Updates. The meeting continued with presentations from Core Innovative Area (CIA) leaders who provided updates of the status of the prioritized EDC initiatives on the topics of Safety, Infrastructure Preservation, Mobility and Operations, and Organizational Improvement and Support.

Featured Presentation #1 — Commercial Vehicle Alerts.  The first featured presentation described an initiative to proactively deploy New Jersey Commercial Vehicle Alerts to improve safety and traffic incident management. Sal Cowan, NJDOT Senior Director, Transportation Mobility, was joined by Amy Lopez, Director, Public Sector Services and Smart City Strategy for INRIX, and Marc Nichols, Director, Government & Industry Partnerships for Drivewyze. Mr. Cowan set the stage for their joint presentation by explaining that Drivewyze is the provider of North America’s largest weigh station by-pass system, Drivewyze Pre-Clear.  INRIX provides real-time traffic data and analytics and has been a long-standing data partner with NJDOT.

Mr. Cowan provided an overview of the project and discussed the web-based Drivewyze dashboard.

In laying out the rationale for the deployment of commercial vehicle alerts, Mr. Cowan noted that NJDOT, NJ Turnpike Authority, and South Jersey Turnpike Authority are working together to provide commercial drivers with slow-down and congestion alerts to help them react before they are caught in congested and/or hazardous conditions. He highlighted the roadways covered by the subject deployment and reminded attendees of the importance of having a safe and reliable goods movement sector to the state's economy and to satisfying our growing expectations as consumers.

Ms. Lopez described the INRIX system and its ability to deliver real-time data that detects and describes sudden slowdowns, closures, and queues by location for specific events. Drivewyze takes this data and communicates it to commercial truck drivers. The system works with severity thresholds and trigger warnings so only events that exceed these thresholds are reported. Commercial drivers receive the messages through the electronic logging device (ELD) in their cab. The reported information can be customized to include notification of specific weather events.

Mr. Cowan presented an example of the web-based dashboard that NJDOT can monitor when Drivewyze sends out a commercial vehicle traffic alert. The alert platform provides information on congestion and sudden slow-downs by road, time of day, and incident duration and indicates the number of alerts and vehicles alerted in NJ.

Mr. Cowan and Ms. Lopez also touched on the deployment timeline from planning to implementation, data interpretation challenges, and anticipated next-step applications for integration of the commercial vehicle alert data.

Mr. Nichols discussed how the Drivewyze alert system worked in practice.

Mr. Nichols then detailed how the alert system worked in practice, highlighting a specific use case, the Winter Storm Kenan in late January 2022.  He explained that Drivewyze set up a geofence and as drivers crossed that line, they were notified of road conditions so that drivers could find a location to stop and wait out the storm. Notably, NJDOT requested that emergency alerts be sent to commercial drivers along portions of the east coast. In coordination with the Eastern Transportation Coalition, Drivewyze sent alerts to 11 other states for northbound traffic and reached an estimated 4,800 drivers. This system was also used to inform drivers of open rest areas during the pandemic.  Mr. Nichols explained how the collaboration between NJDOT, INRIX and Drivewyze was able to effectively inform commercial truck drivers and change their behavior during a severe weather event.

Featured Presentation #2 — Trenton Moves: Autonomous Vehicle-Based Urban Transit System Project.  The next presentation was made by Andrew Tunnard, NJDOT Asst. Commissioner, Operations Systems and Support, who spoke about Trenton Moves — Mobility & Opportunity: Vehicles Equity System. Mr. Tunnard described the fundamental importance in planning transportation systems and services of considering all kinds of people when thinking about mobility. He introduced the "Trenton Moves" project, which will seek to identify and address the transportation needs of the carless, and those who are unable to drive due to physical limitations. Trenton has approximately 90,000 residents, and over 70 percent have one or fewer cars.

Mr. Tunnard provided an overview of the Trenton Moves project, highlighting the project's aims and processes needed to bring it to fruition.

Mr. Tunnard explained that NJDOT is collaborating with the Governor’s Office, Princeton University (Prof. Alain Kornhauser and students), Mercer County, and the City of Trenton to deploy a safe, equitable, affordable, sustainable, on-demand transportation system. As envisioned, the system is expected to comprise 100 autonomous, electric shuttle vehicles and 50 kiosks. The initiative is in the concept phase and the hope is to have people riding the vehicles by early 2024. Steps in the implementation process include: creating a vision in the neighborhoods and communities and building support at the local level for the use of this technology; enticing tech companies to come work with NJDOT in a public-private partnership (PPP) to bring the technology to implementation; and up-front infrastructure funding. Although these vehicles will travel on existing infrastructure, improvements to road markings, curbs, intersections, and signage will be needed, in addition to construction of a maintenance garage and operations center and the 50 kiosks.

Mr. Tunnard touched on some of the potential operational design domain (ODD) phasing, service and pricing plan considerations that must be tackled to fully test and pilot the shuttle system.  Beyond the practical challenges, Mr. Tunnard invited those in attendance to envision how the transit system might deliver needed last-mile services from the Trenton train station to government offices, among other destinations, and improve mobility and accessibility in Trenton for its residents.

The City of Trenton received a local transportation planning grant of $5M from NJDOT to support the start-up and deployment of Trenton Moves.  Once the project is established, the intent is to expand the project to surrounding communities and eventually throughout New Jersey.

Reminders and Updates. Ms. Gendek closed the meeting with information and reminders on the online location of several resources that highlight the NJ STIC and other innovation topics funded through research and technology transfer activities, including:

She noted that STIC Incentive Program funding is available. The program provides up to $100,000 per state. Applications are due by August 2022. The NJDOT Bureau of Research has developed a set of guidelines for project administration for selected projects.

She also reminded everyone that the entry deadline for the 2022 Build A Better Mousetrap Competition is May 1st.  She encouraged attendees to spread the word about the competition among their colleagues.   An NJLTAP Webinar, Innovating at the Local Public Works Level: Can You Build a Better Mousetrap? will be held on March 23, 2022 from 1:00pm – 2:00pm for those who would like more information.

A recording of the NJ STIC March 2022 Meeting can be found here.

The Meeting Presentations can be found in its entirety here and in the section below.

NJ STIC March 2022 Meeting Recording

Welcome Remarks

Slide image reading: FHWA Updates, Helene Roberts, P.E., Innovation Coordinator & Performance Manager, FHWA, NJ Division OfficeFHWA EDC Innovation Updates

Slide image reading: CIA Team Safety NJDOT - Dan LiSanti, FHWA - Keith SkiltonCIA Team Update: Safety

CIA Team Update: Infrastructure Preservation

CIA Team Update: Organizational Improvement and Support

Slide image reading CIA Team Mobility & Ops NJDOT - Sue Catlett, FHWA - Ek PhomsavathCIA Team Update: Mobility and Operations

Feature Presentation: New Jersey Commercial Vehicle Alerts

Feature Presentation: Trenton Moves: Autonomous Vehicle-Based Urban Transit System Project

Slide image reading: Reminders & Announcements, NJDOT Tech Transfer Website (www.njdottechtransfer.net), NJ STIC Website (www.njdottechtransfer.net/nj-stic/), and all meeting recordings, presentations, and summary are posted: njdottechtransfer.net/nj-stic-meetingsReminders, Announcements, and Thank You