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

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

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.

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

Exploring Strategic Workforce Development in NJ: An Interview with Hudson County Community College

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 Lori Margolin, the Associate Vice President for Continuing Education and Workforce Development at Hudson County Community College (HCCC) for her insights on workforce development and a new partnership between HCCC and the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 825 that addresses the need to train individuals for today’s jobs in highway construction and operations.

 

Community Colleges, Programs and Partners

Q.  Can you tell us about your role with the college?

HCCC Continuing Education and Workforce Development works with employers to provide training to meet their needs

HCCC Continuing Education and Workforce Development works with employers to provide training to meet their needs

I am the Associate Vice President for Continuing Education and Workforce Development at Hudson County Community College (HCCC). My department oversees all non-credit programs at the College. We provide educational programs in a wide variety of areas for community residents, training for unemployed and underemployed job seekers, and work directly with employers to provide basic skills and customized training to incumbent workers. We have partnerships with many diverse organizations and take an “entrepreneurial approach” to developing programs and partnerships which provide an alternate  pathway for students to obtain credentials and enter a degree program.

Q.  Before we delve into your new International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 825 program, please tell us, based on your experiences, if there is a lack of awareness among your student body – especially among women and minority students – for jobs/careers in the highway construction industry?

In general, students often lack awareness of careers in many sectors. I have no specific data to cite in highway construction however I am sure it holds true in this industry. Young people and prospective job seekers are not aware of the full-range of available opportunities and/or have false perceptions about jobs in these sectors. For example, they may erroneously assume no post-secondary degree or certification is needed or that they will work in a “dusty workshop” – neither of which may be true.

The construction industry is known, historically, as a white male-dominated industry that many do not associate as a sector offering opportunities for persons seeking a post-secondary degree; however, increasingly construction and heavy manufacturing are more automated and need workers with advanced technology skills. The IUOE Local 825 is a union that recognizes this need for workers who are vested with skills to work with new technologies.

For women, minorities, and people with disabilities to be attracted to and successfully retain positions in these fields, both role models and a welcoming work environment are vital. The industry has to examine its policies and practices from top to bottom to address issues of diversity.

Q.  Do you know of programs either at HCCC or elsewhere that are building awareness of career opportunities in the highway construction sector?

HCCC offers an Associate degree in Applied Science in Construction Management, which is part of our STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) division. The program has experienced double-digit enrollment growth due to factors including the recent November 2021 passage of the federal Infrastructure bill. Rowan University offers a Bachelor’s degree in Construction Management and there may be others.

NJ Pathways provides individuals with career opportunities and industry with a trained workforce

HCCC and Rowan College of South Jersey will be leading the Construction Center for Workforce Innovation as part of the NJ Pathways to Career Opportunities program, which is a joint initiative of the NJ Community College Consortium for Workforce and Economic Development and the NJ Business and Industry Association. We are looking at expanding the pathways in construction, creating new partnerships with K-12 and 4-year colleges and universities, and expanding the dual education program to include additional partners. Whatever new curricula are developed via the initiative will be shared statewide.

Q.  Several commonly cited roadblocks to entry into the construction sector particularly for women and minority candidates include transportation issues and childcare. Have your students encountered these or other obstacles? Do you see a role for NJ community colleges in helping to reduce barriers for women and minorities in entering the highway construction trades?

Both transportation and childcare are obstacles to entry and retention in construction and other sectors. For example, if a person’s vehicle is not reliable, how are they going to access the job site? For some job seekers, the costs of child care can be a large proportion of their income.

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has created additional challenges, as some job seekers are concerned with taking a job where they may be exposed to the virus and bring it home to older or immune-compromised family members. In some cases, prospective workers must care for family members impacted by COVID-19 and balance demands related to their children’s home school instruction. The number of female employees in many sectors has decreased since the onset of the pandemic because many of these familial responsibilities fall to women. Overall, these constraints are influencing the types of jobs candidates are pursuing.

I see a role for community colleges in helping to reduce barriers for women and minorities in entering highway construction and other sectors. Community colleges serve students from highly diverse backgrounds who bring a variety of experiences to their classes. Community colleges serve more first-generation, part-time, nontraditional age, low-income, minority, and female students than any other type of public higher education institution.  We focus on economic mobility and preparing students to launch successful careers and earn family-sustaining wages.

The pandemic has exacerbated issues that students and job seekers face, such as childcare and transportation. Many HCCC students have non-academic needs including food insecurity and face emergencies, such as car repair, that are beyond their financial means to resolve independently. To help address these issues, HCCC has expanded student supports, as the college considers itself part of the community it serves. The Hudson Helps program provides a food pantry, emergency grants, and has paid almost $5 million in outstanding debts for students during the pandemic.

While these issues are long-standing, if the community works together I believe we can effectively address them.

Q.   Your department partners closely with the business community, offering a variety of programs and resources to help meet their workforce needs. Do you also partner with any community-based organizations to support any of your apprenticeship or other programs? If yes, do any of these organizations specifically focus on supporting women and minorities in the workforc

There are many community-based organizations and programs that support students in preparing for careers. Several of our partners in Hudson County are Women Rising, the Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey and Year Up. Year Up primarily works with minority and low-income students to introduce them to careers in business, finance, and technology, and they have an office on our campus. We partner with many others as well.

International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Program

Q.  With HCCC as a registered apprenticeship sponsor with USDOL, do you have apprenticeship programs in place focused on advanced manufacturing, healthcare and -- now with the IUOE Program -- operating engineering?

NJ DOL provides funding for apprenticeship and other training programs.

HCCC is a Registered Apprenticeship sponsor and currently has an advanced manufacturing employer, Eastern Millwork, and one hospitality employer, Skopos Hospitality. In addition we have agreements with many healthcare providers to train apprentices. We are a partner on an application for a culinary Pre-Apprenticeship in Career Education (PACE) training grants through the NJ Department of Labor and Workforce Development (NJDOL).

Many employers are hesitant to pursue apprenticeships because they do not understand what an apprenticeship entails, and the benefits that an apprenticeship could offer to both employers and participants. In fact, many confuse internships with apprenticeships, with one distinction among the two being that apprenticeship participants are hired as employees, although there are other differences as well.

We have an agreement with the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 825 to articulate up to 30 credits towards an Associate degree (60 credits).  Apprentices with IUOE Local 825 can pursue an Associate degree while completing the apprenticeship program.

Q.   Can you please outline the basics of the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) program?

HCCC and the IUOE are training workers for the construction industry, including highway construction.

The IUOE program is technically an advanced manufacturing initiative that is supported by a NJ PLACE 2.0 grant. This innovative program was established in November 2021 through an articulation agreement between HCCC and IUOE Local 825 and gives students the opportunity to be dually enrolled in the union apprenticeship program and HCCC, where they will earn an Associate of Applied Science in Technical Studies degree after they complete 60 credits.

Participants will earn 30 credits from on-the-job training and education provided by the union, and are scheduled to earn the other 30 credits from HCCC over five semesters. They will be attending part-time, taking two classes per semester and earning six credits per semester on average.

Q, What are the main goals for the IUOE program?

The main goals for the NJ PLACE 2.0 grant are promoting equality of opportunity, upward economic mobility, and economic fairness.

Q.  What makes the IUOE program particularly innovative?

The program is innovative and beneficial because it provides students with the unique, time-saving opportunity to pursue their journeyworker status simultaneously with earning their Associate degree. The program is designed so that students earn credit for experience outside the classroom, and college classes enhance what they are learning at work. There are no out of pocket expenses for the students since costs are covered by the grant and IUOE Local 825.

The IUOE has named the hybrid apprentice program “Earn and Learn”

The degree will  give students additional options and pathways.  Future operators will need to master heavy equipment and also understand and work with the technology behind it.

Q.  How is program implementation going so far? Approximately how many students are currently enrolled?

The program will start in the spring 2022 semester on January 21, 2022. Thirty students of diverse backgrounds from throughout the state were accepted for enrollment. The students had to commit to both components of the program, earning the Associate degree and to the apprenticeship program. Hundreds of prospective applicants applied in the first 20 minutes that the online application portal opened.

All HCCC instruction is virtual, although the orientation was held in-person on-campus. The virtual modality allows students who reside throughout the state to easily attend. The IUOE Local 825 members are trained in real-world facilities on the latest models of equipment, including those with the newest technology and GPS systems. The state-of-the-art training facility located in central New Jersey near Exit 8A of the NJ Turnpike, has a total area of nearly 60 acres, with more than 90 pieces of equipment, simulators and instrumentation.

IUOE members are trained in central NJ to work with heavy machinery on construction sites

IUOE members are trained in central NJ to work with heavy machinery on construction sites

Q.  What career paths and industries will program graduates typically pursue? Are construction jobs a focus of the program? Has there been any discussion about preparing workers in the highway construction trades?

Local 825 Operating Engineers are highly trained and experienced heavy equipment operators, mechanics, and surveyors who offer unsurpassed productivity to contractors throughout New Jersey and five counties in New York’s Hudson Valley

Q.  We read that the IUOE program is one of two in the state. Are you aware of the other program?

HCCC is the only community college in New Jersey offering this program. Thomas Edison State University is another institution with a NJ PLACE 2.0 grant.

Q.  Do you see this as an ongoing program or dependent on grant funding that might not be forthcoming in future years?

Currently, the grant covers half the tuition and fees for students and the union covers the remaining portion. Both HCCC and the IUOE Local 825 are committed to the program. Our interests and missions align and I see the program continuing. The program itself enables students to train with and learn current technology, and improves readiness for current and future career pathways.

Looking Ahead

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

Increasing awareness of the career pathways available in the construction industry would be helpful in encouraging more NJ community college students to consider this option. New Jersey's Community Colleges and New Jersey Business and Industry Association are leading a collaborative effort to address the rapidly changing needs of employers and providing students and workers with the career pathways they need to be successful.  As a key component of this coordinated workforce preparation effort, the NJ Council of County Colleges has launched 10 Centers of Workforce Innovation specifically focused on building pathways to serve the learning lifespan of students and workers. The Centers are clustered in four industries, Healthcare, Technology and Innovation, Infrastructure and Energy, and Manufacturing and Supply Chain Management.  HCCC is the administrative lead on the Construction Center of Workforce Innovation (part of the Infrastructure industry) and is partnered with Rowan College of South Jersey. There was a statewide convening on January 19th to kick off the planning phase of the work.

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 other disadvantaged populations. Do you have any thoughts about how NJDOT might pursue this goal?

New Jersey’s 18 community colleges serve over 300,000 people in non-credit, credit, and workforce development courses

NJDOT Human Resources staff and/or senior leadership should partner with NJ’s community colleges so we can familiarize NJDOT with opportunities to align in-demand skills for degree programs and develop customized non-credit programs and training for their workforce. Community colleges can uptrain or re-train the NJDOT workforce to succeed in new or revamped roles. HCCC and other community colleges can also work with NJDOT to help the department achieve increased workforce representation among females and minorities. NJDOT can engage in conversations with educators and let us know what skills the NJDOT workforce needs so that we can help address skill gaps. There are 18 community colleges in the state; NJDOT could opt to reach out to the NJ Council of County Colleges to start the conversation.

NJDOT workers and others may want to consider taking advantage of the Community College Opportunity Grant initiative. New Jersey students enrolled in any one of the State’s 18 county colleges may be eligible for tuition-free college. Students who are enrolled in at least 6 credits per semester and who have an adjusted gross income of $0-$65,000 will be considered for this state grant.

 

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.  http://www.iuoe825.org/

NJ Community College Consortium for Workforce and Economic Development. https://njworkforce.org

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

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

NJ Pathways to Career Opportunities. https://njpathways.org/centers-of-workforce-innovation/

 

Exploring Strategic Workforce Development in NJ: An Interview with the Associated Construction Contractors of New Jersey

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.

Associated Construction Contractors of New Jersey (ACCNJ) is a construction trade association representing union construction companies, including highway, bridge, and vertical construction in the tri-state area and beyond, representing both small and larger companies. ACCNJ’s mission is to raise the standard of construction in New Jersey by providing a diverse array of training and educational programs and information for their membership. We spoke with Jill Schiff (Executive Director, Operations) and Darlene Regina (COO) to hear their perspective on pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs in New Jersey. 

ACCNJ provides education and training for member union construction companies.

ACCNJ provides education and training for member union construction companies.

 

Q. Is there a lack of awareness among women and minorities of jobs in the construction industry? Do you know of programs that are building awareness of opportunities in transportation?

People understand what construction is and that it is a necessity. They see a plumber or electrician working on their home, an addition going up on the neighborhood school or a group of craftworkers in a work zone widening a highway.  Being able to break down what they already know and being able to show them how many opportunities exist in the industry is where we need to meet them.

Union construction trades are progressive in attracting qualified applicants.  In addition to traditional avenues, they work with community groups, government entities, and school districts as a way to share information about their programs.  All construction trades do conduct outreach to women and minorities, as unions are open to all and labor management cooperatives work on increasing diversity.

The industry makes an effort to actively promote construction career opportunities through a variety of paths, individually and collectively. For example, the EAS Regional Council of Carpenters has a “Career Connections” program for high school students and “CARP” for women and minorities. Union jobs offer competitive pay and benefits, continuous training opportunities, and access to technology. Three- to five-year union construction apprenticeship programs are rewarding and valuable as they prepare participants for successful careers. Apprentices are learning skills while simultaneously earning a salary. There are nominal up-front fees for apprenticeships, such as union dues and/or application fees. Applicants are also required to hold a high school diploma or GED, a driver’s license, be drug-free, and be able to read for information and have math competency.

The annual Construction Industry Career Day offers information and hands-on learning to high school students.

On the collective side, ACCNJ oversees a Construction Industry Career Day, a two-day event for high school students, supported by the unions, various trade associations, and government agencies. The event started in 2001 and attracts about 3,000 people each year.  We advertise the event to every high school in the state, general, private and vo-tech. The event offers hands-on skills learning for different occupations in the field and students are able to talk to current apprentices. Parents and guardians are encouraged to join us so they can become aware of the diverse construction career paths. The next event is scheduled for May 31st and June 1st in 2022.

This NJ DOL program assists high school juniors and seniors to transition to high-skill, high-wage employment.

This NJ DOL program assists high school juniors and seniors to transition to high-skill, high-wage employment.

The New Jersey State Building and Construction Trades Council, which coordinates activity and provides resources to 15 affiliated trades unions in the construction industry, is involved in the New Jersey Youth Transitions to Work Program, a state-funded program promoting work-based learning and the establishment of linkages among secondary schools, post-secondary and registered apprenticeships. They also support the Helmets to Hardhats program designed to help transitioning military personnel pursue careers in the building and construction industry.

 

Q. What are the principal challenges for women and minorities to enter apprenticeship programs and the construction industry? 

This program helps veterans and other service people transition to career and training opportunities in the construction industry.

This program helps veterans and other service people transition to career and training opportunities in the construction industry.

The main challenges for women and minorities entering the field often relate to transportation and childcare. Reliable childcare is an especially significant barrier for female candidates.

Some individuals do not hold a valid driver’s license or have access to a vehicle, making it difficult or impossible to access job sites located far from their homes or in areas outside central cities where public transportation is limited.

New Jersey is a US Department of Labor (USDOL) apprenticeship state. Apprenticeship programs are audited by the US DOL annually and have to demonstrate certain percentages of women and minority members.

 

Q. You have worked with Sisters in the Brotherhood. It sounds like a successful program. Can you tell us about this?

Part of the Carpenters Union, Sisters in the Brotherhood provides advocacy and skills training for women.

Part of the Carpenters Union, Sisters in the Brotherhood provides advocacy and skills training for women.

Sisters in the Brotherhood is an international program supporting female members of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters.  They advocate for issues women face in the industry, teach educational leadership skills, and offer mentoring to retain and elevate women in the local unions.  The focus on fostering a kinship among female members and hold events to enable social interactions.

Sisters in the Brotherhood does have a role in apprenticeships, which varies by local area. Pre-COVID, they had a very successful 12-week course that focused on upgrading math skills and the ability to read for information, and on physical strength training which is necessary in the construction field.

 

Q. Can you tell us about the Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA) program that has similar supports?

LIUNA members work on highway construction projects.

LIUNA members work on highway construction projects.

LIUNA is one of the more diverse unions in the state. They offer membership affinity groups for networking, mentorship, and engagement to promote individual and professional development. They convene a woman’s caucus, an African American caucus, and a Latino caucus, and possibly others.

 

Q. Would you say there are any model practices currently among community-based organizations to support women and minority individuals looking at the construction trades?

Community-based organizations such as the Newark Alliance, Urban League in Essex County, Urban League of Camden County and the Edison Job Corps Center in Middlesex County teach skills, including soft skills, to help make individuals more employable and independent. These organizations are an important support to the trades in attracting women and minorities to the profession.

 

Q. What types of construction pre-apprenticeship programs are there in NJ?

Pre-apprenticeship programs are becoming more prevalent in New Jersey. These programs are valuable because they focus on preparing participants with the soft skills needed to succeed in the construction trades. Participants who complete pre-apprenticeship programs are still required to apply for apprenticeship programs.

For example, the Bricklayers have a 12-week pre-apprenticeship program. Laborers also had a pre-apprenticeship program in Jersey City but it was directed more to building laborers.

NJ DOL provides funding for apprenticeship and other training programs.

NJ DOL provides funding for apprenticeship and other training programs.

 

Q. Do you have any insights into the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development (NJDOL) apprenticeship programs, and the legislation behind them? Are any of the programs relevant to the highway construction trades?

Remember that NJDOL does not implement apprenticeships; however, they do have an Office of Apprenticeship that assists organizations with apprenticeships via grants and other opportunities.

As we said, pre-apprenticeship programs are becoming more common in the state. The NJ Office of Apprenticeship is offering funding to support these initiatives through their Growing Apprenticeship in Nontraditional Sectors (GAINS) and Pre-Apprenticeship in Career Education (PACE) programs.

 

 

 


Resources

Associated Construction Contractors of New Jersey
https://accnj.org/

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

Laborers International Union of North America
https://www.liuna.org/

New Jersey Building and Construction Trades Council
http://www.njbctc.org/

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

Sisters in the Brotherhood
https://www.carpenters.org/sisters-in-the-brotherhood/

Succession Planning Literature Scan

Strategic Workforce Development (SWD) is a model innovation in the latest round of the FHWA Every Day Counts (EDC-6).  The NJ STIC expressed the objective to “reinvigorate succession planning programs to address workforce development in managerial skills” during this round. 

At the 2nd Quarter 2021 STIC meeting, a presentation, Reinvigorating Succession Planning and Special Recruitment Programs, briefed attendees on key features and lessons from a past succession planning initiative undertaken at NJDOT.  Subsequently in September 2021, the innovation implementation team participated in a “Let’s Go: Accelerating Innovation through Teamwork” training workshop led by the FHWA to focus on key strategic actions to reinstate and retool succession planning within the agency.

To further inform this effort, the below literature scan highlights examples of succession planning initiatives being undertaken by other leading State DOTs.

Introduction to Succession Planning

NJDOT, as with other state DOTs, can anticipate impending retirements and a continuing loss of knowledge and experience with the retirement of baby boomers in the coming years. NJDOT recognized and addressed the potential loss of qualified leadership with its innovative succession planning program in operation from 2001 to 2010.  The GAO (2005) describes succession planning as an ongoing, strategic process for identifying and developing a diverse pool of talent for an organization’s potential future leaders.  Succession planning programs are often one element in a larger workforce planning program. Several other techniques of knowledge transfer, including cross-training, job talks, Communities of Practice, and a Lessons Learned database, can be employed within and between units to address potential knowledge gaps.

The State of Missouri illustrates the succession planning process in their Succession Planning Playbook.

The State of Missouri illustrates the succession planning process in their Succession Planning Playbook.

With a succession planning process, the agency works to anticipate vacancies in key leadership positions, identifies the skills required to fill those positions, and establishes a system of mentoring and professional development to prepare individuals for leadership roles. Increasingly, succession planning programs are also addressing gaps in mission-critical positions at other levels in the organization in response to retirements, promotions and turn-over. Succession planning programs can help DOTs proactively address continuing challenges with employee retention, filling skills gaps within the organization at all levels, finding qualified workers in new technologies and increasing diversity in leadership positions.

State DOTs increasingly recognize the need for leadership to establish a vision and goals for diversity and its close relationship to succession planning.  According to Cronin, “In order to ensure diversity is upheld within the highest levels of the organization, it is important that agencies are intentional about their plans for including minorities in their succession planning and that top management fully supports those plans” (Cronin et. al, 2011 p. 104).

Workplace culture plays a large role in employee retention. Improving this culture by providing mentoring, rotational job training, professional development, and succession planning can aid in the retention of transportation employees (Cronin et. al, 2011). Providing career pathways at all levels can help a state DOT compete with the private sector, which tends to offer higher pay, and other public agencies that are vying for applicants with the same skills as are needed at DOTs.

At the most basic level, the availability of career paths “improves job satisfaction, employee motivation, and employee commitment” (Cronin, 2011, p.48).  The availability of promotional opportunities for workers and access to continuing pathways for promotion is integral to an agency's employee retention strategy.  Lower-level employees look to see people of similar background in management positions, and advancement opportunities must be visible in order to increase retention. Training programs and individual training plans can create a more flexible employee population and encourage younger employees to stay with the organization. Other retention strategies improve workplace culture by supporting and valuing individual employees, cultural understanding and respect.

State DOTs need employees familiar with new technologies such as Weather Responsive Management Systems, Unmanned Aerial Systems, Connected Vehicles, and Transportation Incident Management.

State DOTs need employees familiar with new technologies such as Weather Responsive Management Systems, Unmanned Aerial Systems, Connected Vehicles, and Transportation Incident Management.

State DOTs increasingly face the need to recruit and retain a technically diverse workforce capable of working on emerging technologies to manage infrastructure more effectively and share information quickly. In a recent survey for NCHRP Project 20-07, DOTs identified new and emerging positions that might expose significant gaps in expertise at all levels related to these technologies (Szymkowski and Ivey, 2019).

Succession Planning at NJDOT

NJDOT’s Succession Planning program operated from 2001 to 2010.  According to staff, the program was seen as a model for other DOTs around the nation, as it was one of the first formal Succession Planning programs in the U.S. for the industry. The program was initiated as a response to large numbers of retirements and the accompanying loss of critical knowledge. Participants had to be employed at Range 26 or higher to participate. The program included mentoring and training for leadership skills, management, data analysis, team coaching, organizational talent and other competencies required of leaders. With their mentors, participants designed individual development plans. One-to-one coaching and Lunch & Learn sessions provided opportunities to exchange information. Funding for the program covered the program manager’s salary and a staff of three (a secretary, a professional and a paraprofessional.)

The selection process was geared toward managing diversity within the group, with regard to race, gender, location, occupation and employment level. Under the first manager, the application process was open. Anyone interested could apply and applications were reviewed by a Steering Committee, comprised of three directors, two assistant commissioners, one deputy commissioner, and the program manager. In the first year, a total of 53 applicants, or one-half of all applicants, were accepted. In the ensuing years, with five more cohorts instated, the application process became increasingly rigorous. Employees could not self-nominate, but needed two nominations: one from a manager or above in their own division and one from a manager or above outside their division. Applicants had to complete an extensive questionnaire and write an essay. An interview was required with the third cohort, and with the fourth, three nominations were required (one from the director level) followed by a second interview.


The NJDOT Division of Civil Rights ADA/504 Coordinator presented on reinvigorating a Succession Planning program at NJDOT at the STIC 2nd Quarter, 2021 Meeting.

Succession planning programs in private industry typically keep their program population to no more than 2 percent of the total employee population. Generally, NJDOT participation was limited to around 60 employees at any one time to avoid having too many trainees prepared for too few positions. Participants were not promised a promotion and it was clear that promotions were constrained by the State’s Civil Service system. Generally, after the first year, between 15 and 30 percent of applicants were accepted to the program. People who were not chosen were encouraged to reapply and some did.

The principal program objective was to prepare people to attain the director level. Several program participants moved into leadership positions, according to staff, but no formal records on the program’s results were kept. Women and minorities were promoted through the program. People could stay in the program for several years. Staff estimated that 130 people went through the program and 7-10 people reached the assistant commissioner level. Transitions in and out of the cohorts occurred when people reached the director level, voluntarily left the program, were asked to leave (if they were not doing the work), retired, or gave their spot to someone else. There was an Associate designation for those who left in good standing but had not reached a director position.

The mentoring piece of the succession planning program was generally acknowledged to be valuable. No formal mentoring program has been instituted since the program’s end. Several former employees served as mentors for participants in the succession planning program. They noted that participation in the program did not necessarily lead to increased opportunities for advancement but provided professional development, self-assessment, and skills improvement that made them better supervisors and managers. Individuals reported that, as mentors, they learned more about the organization. In April 2016, NJDOT’s Women in Transportation group launched a Department-wide mentoring program to encourage the sharing of knowledge and expertise among employees to build “a stronger, more adaptive organization.”

Benefits of Succession Planning

A succession planning program enables a transportation agency to be continuously prepared for the future, and to fulfill its mission to provide mobility and safety continuously to the traveling public.  State DOTs and state governments are addressing the issue of potential gaps in key positions with a sense of urgency.  Employers are experiencing a wave of retirements and employee transitions fueled by aging baby boomers and disruptions attributable to Covid-19, technological change, and shifting labor market conditions.

Washington State DOT programs created a 5-track leadership training program.

Washington State DOT programs created a 5-track leadership training program.

Washington State's DOT (WsDOT) has projected retirement vacancies based on employee age, retirement plans, and years of service. The agency seeks to provide a leadership development program that advances in-house staff and that is attractive to those individuals considering employment at WsDOT. In its Leadership Development Succession Planning Report, the agency notes that “leadership programs not only ease the chain of succession, a good program also makes employees more connected and engaged to the organization. This opens up opportunities for knowledge transfer across the agency …. Additionally, this leadership program supports primary aspects of building a great agency culture, highlighting opportunities for growth and development, which is a compelling recruitment tool for sourcing new talent outside of the agency” (Millar & Pelton, 2018).

Succession planning programs and related knowledge management strategies improve employee morale by providing opportunities to increase knowledge and build expertise, and create a path for advancement. Effective training strategies signal to current and potential employees that the organization is investing in its workforce and is seeking ways to prepare employees to adapt to changing job requirements, acquire new skills, and to promote excellence in the workplace. In some cases, training may also signal the agency’s intentions to prepare its employees for greater managerial responsibilities. Such training may increase retention by improving the readiness of an employee for a new position.

Existing Practices

Although specific content and curricula of succession planning programs in other states is generally unavailable through desktop methods, many DOTs and state government agencies provide guidance for establishing programs.

State DOTs and State Governments

Several state DOTs, including those in Georgia, Oregon, Virginia and Wisconsin, provide a framework for the organization of succession planning programs. In addition, state governments are facing the issues of retention and the retirement of baby boomers and have provided guidelines for establishing succession planning programs for adoption by all of their state agencies, including DOTs.

In general, these guides present similar steps for successful implementation of succession planning programs. Not all guides include all of the steps (See Table 1).

Table 1. Succession Planning Program Steps for Implementation

Links to examples of worksheets and forms, from the state governments of Michigan, Missouri, Ohio and Oregon, designed to assist with implementing and recording these steps can be found in the resources section below.

Leadership Training for All

Nevada, Utah, Virginia and Washington DOTs have leadership training programs for employees at almost all levels of their organization.  Leadership training programs enable employees to improve their leadership skills and knowledge of the organization and may prepare participants to be more competitive for positions in other units, even if they are not focused on upper management positions. Some of these programs are self-initiated and self-paced.

Virginia DOT promotes its Core Development Program on its website to attract and inform potential employees.

Virginia DOT promotes its Core Development Program on its website to attract and inform potential employees.

Washington DOT developed a five-track program open to employees at all levels of the organization. The program content, aligned with a statewide leadership development program, is available through the agency’s learning management system. Utah DOT (UDOT) has a four-tiered Leadership Development Program that all employees can participate in, until the last step in the program, the Utah Leadership Institute, which is only open to individuals by invitation from agency senior leadership. Nevada DOT developed a Leadership Academy based on The Leadership Challenge®. The program is open to all DOT employees. Information on this program is located on the NDOT Careers page, as a recruitment strategy.

Virginia DOT has a comprehensive set of programs to assist all interested employees gain leadership skills and advance internally. Each of the programs have metrics such as the number of employees who were able to move laterally or up in the organization, skill acquisition, or acquisition of leadership competencies, among others (See Table 2).

Table 2. Virginia Department of Transportation Employee Development Programs

Source: University of Memphis & VDOT

Workforce Planning Model in Texas identifies key steps in phases.

Workforce Planning Model in Texas identifies key steps in phases.

Emerging Practices

Knowledge Management

Succession planning can be a standalone program or part of a larger workforce planning program. Several knowledge management strategies can be employed to transfer knowledge between mentor and mentee in the succession planning process. These strategies also frequently factor into workforce planning. Any employee exiting the organization may have decades of experience, technical expertise, and institutional knowledge, that should be captured. The agency needs to identify critical knowledge that should be captured, and identify effective knowledge sharing tools for the types of knowledge to be transferred, and the audience (State of Texas, 2013).

Some of the following strategies, tools and techniques can be built into the individual development plan for employees selected for the succession planning program. All of these strategies, tools and techniques could be considered for agency-wide implementation.

 

Table 3. Knowledge Management Strategies, Tools and Techniques 

 

Strategies, Tools and Techniques

 

Description

Annotated Template/ Guidance Document Templates, outlines, or other content/format guidelines to provide guidance on items for inclusion and how to go about writing and documentation.
Communities of Practice A group of people who deepen their knowledge and expertise by interacting with each other over time and who share that collaborative knowledge with others in the organization, but not a formally constituted work team.
Critical Incident Review/ Lessons Learned Capture lessons of experienced employees’ approach to problem solving. Creates a database and allows for discussion of what worked, what did not work, and why. Focuses on finding root causes and process issues
Cross-generational Mentoring An agreement describes formal and informal meetings to mentor employees new to the organization. Can include “reverse-mentoring” in technology-related areas to include experienced employees willing to be mentored by younger employees.
Cross-training and mobility assignments Training of employees to learn about other positions in the organization, and to perform the job functions while maintaining their own position.
Desk-Side Reviews A successor sits down with the upcoming retiree at the retiree’s desk and listens as they show notes, templates, shortcuts, or memory aids for performing the job.
Expert Interviews Skilled interviewer asks questions of employee to make tacit knowledge explicit.
Job Shadowing Veteran employee shares knowledge with a less experienced employee and provides hands-on practice in dealing with everyday problems and the most difficult situations
Knowledge Maps Used to discover the location, form, ownership, value and use of knowledge and people’s expertise to make better use of knowledge and identify barriers to knowledge flow. Can help to identify areas in need of succession planning.
Last Lecture/Story Telling/Oral History Retiring employee or employee with expertise is encouraged to give a presentation in a staff meeting and/or lunchtime talk.  Event can be face-to-face or via a video.   Description of what really happened to give context, engage feelings and minds, help listeners see relevancy to their own situation
Mentoring Programs Training for specific situations or developmental needs, effective for transferring organizational cultural information, relationships outside units, develop higher level of proficiency
Peer Exchange Peers from state DOTs, or regional and local governments, meet to exchange ideas and best practices on a specific topic to benefit research, development, and technology transfer programs.
Procedure Manual Manual that describes the specific processes and procedures required to accomplish the work of a unit or of a particular position.
Process Documentation Flow diagrams that illustrate a process and identifies roles and responsibilities of various parties, including process, participants and products at each step in the process.
Research Research advances innovation and contributes to broad implementation of specific processes and procedures.
Tech Talk Events SMEs present information on specific innovative initiatives or research findings at lunchtime talks or half-day events
Training SME conducts training session on specific topic
Videos Illustrates how a job or task is done or innovation is achieved. Documents model or innovative practices.
Webinar SMEs conduct online training that can be accessed live or reposed for on-demand use.
Workshop Half-day or full-day event including practical application of knowledge transferred.
Challenges

When implementing succession planning, DOTs may face barriers from other institutions such as civil service systems and unions.

Civil Service System

The Civil Service system in New Jersey State Government greatly affects NJDOT’s approach to recruitment, retention, and advancement of its workers. The NJ Civil Service Commission (NJCSC), part of the State Treasury department, oversees the implementation of these regulations.  Recruitment and hiring for most NJDOT job titles is subject to the NJCSC’s competitive hiring and recruitment system.  All applicants for “Open Competitive positions” must score highly on a Civil Service test and/or meet other requirements.   NJCSC operates under the “Rule of Three” under which NJDOT must select from the first three highest ranking candidates on a given list.

NJCSC seeks to ensure adherence to the Disabled Veterans and Veterans “Absolute Preference” requirements in hiring and promotion.  The “Rule of Three” and “Absolute Preference” are applied differently in Open Competitive and Promotional examination situations.  While Veterans and Disabled Veterans have an absolute preference when creating the rank of the eligible lists over all other candidates in order of their scores, promotional exam eligible lists differ in that all candidates, including veterans, are ranked by their score with no distinction among disabled veterans and veterans in promotional exams.  However, when a veteran is ranked number one on a promotional certification, a nonveteran cannot be appointed.

To ensure access to skilled workers under hiring freeze conditions and periods of skilled worker shortages, the State has created two processes that allow State agencies to bypass some Civil Service rules during the recruitment and hiring process.  The first of these are positions designated as “non-competitive”, which include civil engineering trainees (CETs) and other titles approved by the Civil Service Commission.  For these positions, most Civil Service requirements are waived for the initial hiring process, and workers in these positions do not need to test at all for their entry-level promotion, but are required to follow Civil Service rules for any subsequent promotions.  The second type of position is referred to as a “provisional trainee.” Faced with the possibility that approval for open positions might be rescinded, NJDOT may hire in advance of the test. A provisional trainee must test after hire to hold the position, but exams are administered infrequently.

Most positions available at NJDOT are subject to Civil Service Rules either at the point of hiring and/or at the point of promotion. The only positions that are not subject to Civil Service rules in any form are considered “unclassified” positions, also known as political appointee positions.  These include many leadership positions, including the Commissioner and Assistant Commissioners.  However, there are also a select number of additional “unclassified” positions, including “special assistants” who oversee the agency’s increasing number of outside contracts. The number of unclassified positions is determined by statute.

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

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

Recent structural shifts, such as the stepped testing and advancement available through the Vision 2020 program, and the expanded promotion of Assistant Engineers to Senior Engineers, offer examples of NJDOT initiatives that have the support of the Civil Service Commission.

Union Environment

Succession planning programs may be perceived as bypassing traditional hiring processes and privileging a potential successor for a particular position, a process that unions would oppose for positions covered by collective bargaining agreements. Including union representatives when developing succession planning programs can help address issues early in the program development.

Recommendations
New and Emerging Transportation Systems Management and Operations PositionsEmployee Expectations

Most of the guidance developed by other state governments includes a caveat that participation in a succession planning process is not a guarantee of promotion, and does not replace a competitive hiring process. The former NJDOT program included similar language. Employees in succession planning programs may need to be assured that there are no negative repercussions if they leave the program, and must fully understand the expectations and limitations of the program.

By providing various training opportunities that are open to all, no matter what level, the agency avoids the perception that it supports an “elitist” training program.

Participation in programs should not depend solely on the need for a supervisor’s recommendation. Individuals may have conflicts with supervisors and may not be able to request that recommendation.

New Technologies

New technologies require skills sets that may not be represented in the agency. Agencies need to predict technological advances, conduct a gap analysis at all levels to determine if current employees have the skills required for these technologies, there is a need to train current employees for this work, or if there is a need to hire for these positions. State DOTs increasingly face the need to recruit and retain a technically diverse workforce capable of working on emerging technologies to manage infrastructure more effectively and share information quickly. In a recent survey for NCHRP Project 20-07, DOTs identified new and emerging positions in Transportation Systems Management and Operations (Szymkowski and Ivey, 2019). (See Text Box)

Moving Forward

Many of the state DOTs and state governments express the need for immediate action when considering impending gaps in agency leadership. At this critical time, NJDOT is considering the renewal of the succession planning program, to include two levels, for leadership positions and management positions. Providing mentoring and training to program participants will prepare them to assume leadership positions to guarantee consistent service to the traveling public.

Resources

The following documents provide examples of templates and forms for implementing the steps of a succession planning program.

State of Michigan. Succession Planning Tool Kit. https://pdf4pro.com/view/succession-planning-tool-kit-michigan-gov-54f9d.html

State of Missouri. Succession Planning Playbook. https://leadershipacademy.mo.gov/documents/Class3/20200203%20MLA%20-%20Class%203%20-%20Capstone%20Team%20B%20-%20Playbook.pdf

State of Oregon. Employee resources and state workforce: Succession Planning. https://www.oregon.gov/das/HR/Pages/success-plan.aspx


Bibliography

Cronin, B., Anderson, L., Heinen, B., Cronin, C.B., Fien-Helfman, D., & Venner, M. (2011). Strategies to Attract and Retain a Capable Transportation Workforce. NCHRP Report 685. Washington, D.C.: National Cooperative Highway Research Program, Transportation Research Board of the National Academies. https://www.trb.org/Publications/Blurbs/164747.aspx

Meadati, P., Toson, S., & Jambro, J. 2014. Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) Leadership Academy.http://www.dot.ga.gov/BuildSmart/research/Documents/GDOT%20Leadership%20Academy%20Final%20Report.pdf

Government Accountability Office (GAO). (2005). Diversity Management: Expert-Identified Leading Practices and Agency Examples. Washington DC:  Government Accountability Office. https://www.gao.gov/products/gao-05-90

Millar, R. and Pelton, J. 2018. Report on Agency Succession Planning & Leadership Training. Washington State Department of Transportation. https://wsdot.wa.gov/publications/fulltext/LegReports//17-19/WSDOT_LeadershipDevelopmentSuccessionPlanningReport.pdf

National Academies of Sciences. 2019. Transportation Workforce Planning and Development Strategies. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/25624.

National Academies of Sciences. 2015. A Guide to Agency-Wide Knowledge Management for State Departments of Transportation. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/22098

Nevada Department of Transportation. 2021. NDOT’s Leadership Academy for Employees. https://www.dot.nv.gov/doing-business/careers

State of Michigan. (n.d.) Succession Planning Tool Kit. https://pdf4pro.com/view/succession-planning-tool-kit-michigan-gov-54f9d.html

State of Missouri. Succession Planning Playbook. n.d. https://leadershipacademy.mo.gov/documents/Class3/20200203%20MLA%20-%20Class%203%20-%20Capstone%20Team%20B%20-%20Playbook.pdf

State of Ohio. 2011. Ohio’s Talent for Tomorrow and Beyond, Succession Planning Manager’s Toolkit. https://www.das.ohio.gov/Portals/0/DASDivisions/HumanResources/LPD/pdf/Succession%20Planning%20Product%20Documentation.pdf

State of Oregon. Employee resources and state workforce: Succession Planning. https://www.oregon.gov/das/HR/Pages/success-plan.aspx

State of Texas Auditor’s Office. 2017. Workforce Planning Guide. https://sao.texas.gov/Reports/Main/17-708.pdf

Tennessee State Government. 2017. Agency Guide to Workforce/Succession Planning. https://www.tn.gov/content/dam/tn/hr/documents/Agency_Workforce_Succession_Planning_Guide.pdf

Szymkowski T. and Ivey, S. 2019. TR News: Job Openings for Transportation System Management and Operations. Washington, D.C., The National Academies.  https://www.trb.org/Publications/Blurbs/180431.aspx

University of Memphis and VDOT. n.d. Virginia Transportation Training Programs. https://www.memphis.edu/setwc/docs/va_compendium.pdf

Utah Department of Transportation. 2021. Leadership Development. https://www.udot.utah.gov/connect/employee-resources/employee-training/udotu/leadership-development/

KM Toolbox: Last Lecture on Operations Apprenticeship Program

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ms. Shapiro's video presentation is available here:


RESOURCES

Knowledge Management Toolbox, Last Lecture. NJDOT Technology Transfer. Website. Retrieved at: https://www.njdottechtransfer.net/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/STIC-Q2-Feature-Presentation-Operations-Apprenticeship-Program.pdf

 

 

 

From left to right: a woman in a hardhat working with a crowbar, then two men helping place a bridge component, finally three men on a paving device

Strategic Workforce Development Online Recordings & Presentations

Strategic Workforce Development is one of FHWA's seven initiatives promoted through the sixth round of the Every Day Counts (EDC) program. Key emphasis is made on developing new, innovative strategies to support qualified workers for highway construction projects. By strengthening this workforce, through applying lessons learned, new training tools, customizable marketing materials, state transportation agencies can help to foster the next generation of transportation workers.

FHWA's Center for Workforce Development has hosted several webinars about the Highway Construction Workforce Partnership (HCWP highlighting success stories and best practices. Recordings and select presentations are available here and future webinar announcements will be located on the HCWP website.  Some examples of recent webinars and presentations are listed below.

Recordings

Presentations

FHWA contacts for Strategic Workforce Development are Karen Bobo (Karen.Bobo@dot.gov) and Joe Conway (Joe.Conway@dot.gov).