Workforce Development Initiative
Finding quality employees is becoming a critical issue in the
highway design and construction industry throughout the United
States. Members of ASHE-Altoona Section agree and have determined
that a "gap" exists between jobs that are available
in the region and the available pool of potential applicants
who have the skills required to obtain transportation-related
jobs. How can the "gap" be bridged? To address this
issue locally, the ASHE-Altoona Section has undertaken a public/private
sector workforce development initiative.
The Education Committee will be targeting local engineering
consulting firms, contractors, PENNDOT, and municipal governments
to develop a needs assessment. The purpose of the needs assessment
is to determine the extent of labor pool/jobs available "gap."
The results of the needs assessment will help decide future
courses of action by the committee. The information also will
be used to request assistance from other workforce development
efforts and to develop curriculum and training programs with
local educational institutions.
At the regular section meeting on September 19, 2001, a workforce
development panel discussion was held. Panel members included
PENNDOT District Engineer Earl Nelderhiser, PE, the Executive
Director of the Blair County Chamber of Commerce and the Workforce
Development Coordinator of the Altoona-Blair County Development
Corporation. ASHE members heard a lively discussion on the current
and future educational needs of not only the transportation
industry, but also other sectors of the economy. The panel concluded
that a skilled workforce and economic development are inseparable
and that Pennsylvania, as a whole, is demonstrating a strong
commitment to workforce development.
How can the American Society of Highway Engineers play a role
in the workforce development initiative? The Altoona Section's
Education Committee, in addition to its ongoing needs assessment,
will undertake an immediate action program to get involved.
The workforce development program will have three phases.
Phase I - Targeting grade school students and making them aware
of the Transportation Industry.
Phase II - Following up with the high school students.
Phase III - Developing a curriculum and training programs with
local educational institutions.
Phase I will focus on giving students a simple task related
to the transportation field, hence making them aware of what
the transportation industry involves. Phase II will target high
school students at all directions. It will include design and
construction-related tasks and allow them to gain a hands-on
perspective of various jobs in the transportation industry.
Phase III will involve developing a curriculum and training
programs to educate the high school graduates who are interested
in a technical field, as well as training local laborers to
have the specific skill-set needed by highway industry employers.
We hope to implement Phase I by the Fall of 2002, beginning
with the local schools. We hope that once we get the bugs worked
out and develop a program that sparks the interest of the students,
this program will expand to a national level.
Sandy Ivory, a member of the Altoona Section and incoming ASHE
National President, attends the workforce development meetings
and, in turn, keeps the ASHE National Board members informed
on the program's progress. When the focus for the role of the
ASHE-Altoona Section is defined, she hopes to have National
adopt program guidelines for other interested ASHE Sections.
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