NCHRP 02-25 Workforce 2030-Attracting, Retaining, and Developing the Transportation Workforce: Design, Construction, and Maintenance

Status: Active
Timeframe: Near-term
Potential Funding: NCHRP Full Program


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As noted in a 2015 report, “Strengthening Skills Training and Career Pathways Across the Transportation Industry,” released jointly by the U.S. Departments of Education, Transportation, and Labor, the U.S. Department of Transportation spends $51 billion annually on construction, repair, and operation of our nation’s highways, bridges, and public transportation systems—a significant investment benefitting multiple dimensions of society. Every $1 billion invested in the transportation infrastructure produces 13,000 jobs across multiple industry sectors. Much of this investment is in highways and bridges developed, constructed, and maintained through state departments of transportation (DOTs). In FY 2016, state governments added an additional $126 billion in transportation infrastructure spending (Total US Government spending).

Agencies are increasingly challenged by the availability and preparedness of the design, construction, and maintenance workforce. Despite the growing demand for new and replacement staff, budget challenges will mean that state DOTs will likely be working with a significantly smaller workforce than desired. Looming retirements will also put additional demands on staffing as many new workers will require significant training to meet present and future demands.

To manage the dynamics of meeting tomorrow’s design, construction, and maintenance demands with a smaller workforce, state DOTs need robust human capital programs that can attract and train engineers, technicians, and maintenance workers needed to maintain the U.S. highway infrastructure. The workforce shortage among state transportation agencies has evolved over time, and state DOTs recognize that challenges cannot be overcome without significant changes in workforce recruitment and training practices. By starting to address the need for long-range human capital strategies, Workforce 2030 is envisioned as a first step on the pathway for sustaining a qualified workforce.

While the shortage in the transportation construction workforce runs parallel to workforce shortages in other industries, state DOTs face unique challenges. It has already been established that, in general, state DOTs are unable to offer employees the same pay scales and benefits as private companies. Other contributing factors have not been as well researched. For example, many public agencies struggle to maintain technical career paths that reward and support the development and retention of staff with valuable specific skill areas. In addition, the demand for transportation construction, reconstruction, and maintenance work is increasing. Providing improved human capital programs that effectively attract, retain, and develop quality personnel throughout the industry is critical.


Note: For the purposes of this project, the scope will be limited to transportation workforce in design, construction, and maintenance.

The objectives of this research are the following:

1. To produce a roadmap of effective human capital strategies for state DOTs, identifying critical areas necessary in the future to attract, retain, and develop a sustainable, qualified transportation design, construction, and maintenance workforce;

2. To identify trends, policies, and processes critical for developing and maintaining an adaptive organizational framework that will attract, retain, and develop a qualified workforce beyond 2030; and

3. To prepare an evidence-based guide that transportation industry organizations may use when developing and establishing an effective human capital program for a qualified workforce into 2030 and beyond.

The objectives will be achieved through the completion of detailed tasks to be described by the research team.

Research Plan:

Proposers are asked to present a detailed research plan for accomplishing the project objectives. Proposers are expected to describe research plans that can realistically be accomplished within the constraints of available funds and contract time, including an indication of how proposed research will make use of and build on available resources. Proposals must demonstrate in sufficient detail an understanding of the issues and a sound approach to meeting the research objectives, including a review of other studies in general and related NCHRP research studies in particular.

In meeting the objectives of this study, the research plan should consider, but not be limited to, the following:

1. What innovative practices are employed by state DOTs and private organizations to attract, retain, and develop qualified employees? Are there examples in other industries that might provide useful examples?

2. What programs exist that can be used by state DOTs to attract, retain, and develop the 2030 workforce? What other programs are needed to allow state DOTs to meet the needs of the future workforce?

· What approaches to expanding knowledge, skill, ability, education, and experience (KSAEE) will be required in the future to meet the needs of transportation agencies?
· How are projected advances in associated technologies and career functions changing career pathways in fields related to and necessary to transportation?
· What agency policies either support or hinder retention of the existing and development of the future workforce?

3. What organizational changes may be necessary to support broad demographic and lifestyle differences in state DOTs, reflecting new or expanded approaches to meet demands for

· inclusion,
· diversity,
· communication, and
· acceptance of emerging technologies?

4. How can state DOTs effectively integrate their existing and emerging workforce with outside contractors to meet expanding work demands?

· What are the risks associated with future, competitive employment conditions?
· What are the core services that need to be maintained within the structure of the state DOTs, and what services can be contracted out; and
· How are those services determined, given the diversity among state DOTs?

The research plan should be divided into two phases, and each phase should be divided into tasks with a detailed description of the work proposed. The research plan should build in appropriate interim deliverables that include, at a minimum, a detailed annotated outline of the resources forming the basis of the research, and an interim report at the end of Phase I that describes work done in early tasks and provides an updated work plan for the remaining tasks to be accomplished in Phase II. Phase I should account for no more than 40% of the overall effort and should address the initial and fundamental tasks contributing to the overall study outcome. NCHRP will meet with the research team at the end of Phase I to review the interim report. NCHRP approval of the interim report is required before moving on to Phase II.

In addition, the research plan should build in appropriate checkpoints with the NCHRP project panel including, at a minimum, (1) a kick-off teleconference meeting to be held within 1 month of the contract’s execution date; (2) the face-to-face interim deliverable review meeting with the NCHRP project panel to be held at the end of Phase I; and (3) at least two additional web-enabled teleconferences tied to NCHRP review and approval of any other interim deliverables as deemed appropriate.

Duration: 24 months
Project Budget: $700,000

Topics: Guidance/Lessons Learned
Subjects: General/TAM Practice, Maintenance and Preservation, Organizational Factors