Workforce Development Needs of Transportation Sector Climate Adaptation Professionals

Early investments in climate change research, policy, and planning focused heavily on climate mitigation—efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. As climate change impacts have increased in severity, this focus has broadened to include a greater emphasis on climate change adaptation—efforts to minimize the adverse impacts of climate change through hardening or relocating infrastructure, changing design standards, improving redundancy, and other measures. Building climate adaptation capacity within transportation agencies is not straightforward, however, because the knowledge base for climate adaptation is changing rapidly and because the process itself is inherently complex. Moreover, climate change impacts and, therefore, adaptation strategies vary regionally as agencies must manage stressors as varied as sea level rise, increased precipitation, extreme temperatures, reduced slope stability, and thawing permafrost. The growing emphasis on climate adaptation has created a demand for professionals with a new, interdisciplinary skillset. Since climate adaptation is an emerging field, the pathways for developing the skills and competencies for adaptation careers and their broad integration into transportation agencies are not well established.

This white paper assesses the workforce development needs and current training opportunities related to transportation-sector climate adaptation. To understand the climate adaptation workforce development environment, we examine training needs and opportunities identified by state and regional transportation agencies; catalog the training needs of aspiring and early career climate adaptation professionals; and scan the educational opportunities in climate adaptation currently offered by U.S. universities. Training needs and opportunities identified by transportation agencies were collected through an online survey developed by the authors. The experience of aspiring adaptation professionals was captured in a unique survey conducted by the American Society of Adaptation Professionals (ASAP) as part of their mentorship program. Current graduate educational programs related to climate adaptation were identified during this project through a web-search. These diverse datasets, combined with lessons learned from existing adaptation initiatives, provide unique insights into the competencies needed for climate adaptation as well as the current capacity for training adaptation professionals.

Check out the latest white paper from the National Center for Sustainable Transportation for the full report.

Strategies for Recruiting and Retaining Minnesota’s Transportation Workforce

Across the transportation industry, public and private employers are experiencing workforce shortages and an uncertain future. As older employees retire and younger workers fill their roles, organizations must naturally adjust to accommodate their changing workforce. In the transportation industry, shifting demographics have also brought new attitudes regarding technical jobs. The result is that fewer engineers and other highly skilled professionals are entering the field, and keeping those who do is becoming increasingly difficult. To address this changing landscape, transportation agencies of all sizes must be prepared to meet the challenges ahead or risk falling behind.

Serving communities of varying sizes and needs, Minnesota’s transportation agencies rely on a qualified workforce to deliver a range of projects and services. Without a reliable pipeline of dedicated staff, these agencies could experience disruptions in the important work they provide.

What Was Our Goal?

The Minnesota Local Road Research Board commissioned a study to investigate the growing workforce shortage in Minnesota’s transportation industry, identify the possible causes and determine strategies to improve how agencies across the state find and keep workers.

What Did We Do?

Researchers began by reviewing published literature to better understand the changing labor market as well as current trends and best practices in human resources strategies.

A survey of an anonymous sample of 149 workers currently employed in both the public and private sectors of Minnesota’s transportation industry gauged this population’s perceptions on a variety of job-related topics, such as workplace satisfaction, loyalty and career support. The research team conducted one-on-one follow-up interviews with 14 employees to explore these issues in more depth.

What Did We Learn?

With fewer qualified applicants entering the workforce and a limited talent pool to draw from, employers in both the public and private sectors are constantly competing to fill vacancies. Transportation jobs in the public sector offer several enticing advantages over their private counterparts, including more competitive benefits, a perception of greater stability during economic downturns, flexible hours, greater work-life balance and variety of work. Conversely, the benefits of private sector jobs are thought to be higher salaries, more advancement opportunities, better-defined expectations and less bureaucratic red tape.

In both the public and private sectors, jobs in rural areas tend to be harder to fill and attract less diverse applicants than those in urban areas. Respondents in this study suggested that more targeted recruitment strategies and clearly worded job descriptions could improve these efforts.

“For some organizations, the workplace culture is deeply rooted and can be challenging to change. I commend the agencies for their willingness to take this journey and make sure they are a place where the most talented people want to work,” said Kenneth Bartlett, professor, University of Minnesota Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy and Development.

Acknowledging that workforce-related challenges will be different for agencies across the state and that systemic change is never easy, researchers developed a list of recommendations to help public transportation agencies recruit and retain a top-notch workforce:

  • Promote the assets. Make sure that the benefits of working at Minnesota’s public transportation agencies are conveyed and promoted to all hiring managers so they can be relayed to applicants.
  • Increase awareness of transportation careers. Create a marketing strategy that exposes younger people to the transportation industry. Aim to reach and excite students about transportation-related employment options early in their education, possibly while they are still in middle school.
  • Describe jobs realistically. Detailing the job’s expectations from the outset will go a long way toward reducing potential frustrations.
  • Reduce red tape. When possible, allow for exceptions in hiring, compensation and advancement practices. Protocols such as paperwork and budget requests that require a substantial time commitment or advanced planning can be barriers to filling positions quickly or in response to a sudden need.
  • Offer mentorships. Provide formal opportunities for employees to learn from each other, with the expectation that these could lead to job promotion.
  • Plan for succession. Ensure that retirements and other vacancies will be filled quickly and possibly with internal candidates. Relying on existing employees to absorb a departing co-worker’s work can lead to burnout and resentment.
  • Document workplace practices. Invest in knowledge management systems so that key information can be retained as employees retire.

What’s Next?

These recommendations can provide hiring managers with more immediate strategies that, if implemented, can help transportation agencies become more competitive in their efforts to attract and retain a qualified workforce for years to come.

Related Links

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Organizations Strive To Erase Racism And Bias In The Workforce And Society

The Conference of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO) and The International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association (IBTTA) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to promote careers for women and minorities in transportation.

“COMTO and IBTTA look forward to working together. IBTTA is eager for our members to engage and collaborate with COMTO members to foster increased representation resulting in a more equitable transportation system providing greater mobility for all users,” said Pat Jones, Executive Director and CEO, IBTTA.

“The partnership between COMTO and IBTTA is a step in the right direction to increase opportunities for women and minorities in the toll facilities industry. Both organizations are leaders in their respective fields and the partnership will certainly have an impact regarding diversity and equity,” said A. Bradley Mims, President and CEO, COMTO.

The MOU will:

  • Promote the transportation infrastructure sector as a rewarding career choice for women and minorities;
    Further the participation, advancement and recognition of women and minorities in the transportation infrastructure sector, both public and private;
    Provide professional development opportunities to help them advance their skill sets and careers to ensure the sector’s future success;
    Encourage their participation in organizational leadership activities at the national, state and local levels; and
    Cooperate with others who share these objectives to achieve them.

Recognizing the benefits of establishing an institutional arrangement to achieve the following:

  • Increase member access to information, including business and career opportunities, in the respective fields of both organizations;
    Facilitate and expand the dissemination of that information to each other’s members;
    Collaborate on topics of common interest and support diversity objectives that ensure a level playing field for training, education, employment and contract opportunities for minorities in the field of transportation; and
    Provide regular consultation among the leadership to review and assess programs and identify opportunities for coordinated efforts.

COMTO and IBTTA will work together to:

  • Support each other in the development of programmatic content for their meetings and conferences, including identifying candidate speakers;
    Identify opportunities for jointly sponsored convening activities, such as conferences, workshops, webinars, meetings, and local chapter activities;
    Publicize each other’s major conferences and meetings in their e-newsletters;
    Provide recognition as an allied organization at each other’s annual meetings; and
    Exchange two complimentary registrations for leaders of each organization to participate in the other’s annual meetings.

For more information, please contact Gatwiri Muthara at or Bill Cramer at

Providing Training and Education During the Pandemic: Challenges and Solutions at State DOTs

This webinar shares the experiences and problem-solving approaches to maintaining effective training programs that meet the needs of employees and their agencies, with a look at:

  • How TDOT is adapting class activities to a virtual environment and deciding which programs to move forward, all while dealing with technical issues and pandemic restrictions.
  • How Vermont’s Strategic Workforce Committees are connecting with employees across the state regarding Learning & Development, Manager & Supervisor Resources, Employee Retention & Recognition, and Talent Acquisition.
  • CDOT’s process of problem ID and solution, course/program prioritization, program reinvention and rollout as a response to COVID restrictions, and highlighting some of the tools used to register, track, and report on training completions.

The recorded web session is at:

You can find a copy of each presenter’s slides below

The entire NNTW Fall 2020 Webinar Series: Empowering the New Mobility Workforce, including links to recordings can be found at:

If you have ideas for future webinars please contact Glenn McRae ( as we will be planning a series for the winter-spring.


NNTW Fall 2020 Webinar Series: Empowering the New Mobility Workforce

Join the NNTW Regional Transportation Workforce Centers on this 4-part webinar journey that explores how to achieve effective student career engagement and priority workforce development during the pandemic and the long road to recovery ahead.

Download a flyer of the complete series here.

October 7th, 2020: 11am – 12pm Mountain

Engaging Multidisciplinary Student Talent to Meet Agency Needs

With a shrinking tax base, fewer resources, and the urgency of meeting public needs during the COVID crisis, many local agencies are overwhelmed. And while efforts to attract and develop the future workforce may be set aside for now, they don’t have to be. This webinar showcases a model for university/public agency partnerships that can both augment agency capacity and provide opportunities for student professional development and career exposure.

West Region Transportation Workforce CenterEvent Host: The West Region Transportation Workforce Center, Montana State University

Featured Speakers:

Susan Gallagher, Director, West Region Transportation Workforce Center
Susanne Cowan, Professor, Montana State University School of Architecture
Larissa Morales, Grad Student, Montana State University School of Architecture
Danielle Hess, City of Bozeman Neighborhoods Coordinator

Register online now at:

October 27th, 2020: 10am – 11am Pacific

State of the Transportation and Mobility Workforce: Highlights from the 2020 Report

Supplementing traditional labor market data with strategic workforce research and action planning, the 2020 State of the Transportation and Mobility Workforce report outlines a series of practical initiatives designed to address the transportation workforce needs of the southwest region. This webinar highlights these initiatives and offers guidance on how to move the transportation industry into the future—particularly during the long road to recovery ahead.

Event Host: The Southwest Transportation Workforce Center, Cal State University Long Beach

Southwest Transportation Workforce CenterFeatured Speakers:

Tom O’Brien, Director, Southwest Transportation Workforce Center
Tyler Reeb, Associate Director, Southwest Transportation Workforce Center
Special guest presenters from Pima Community College, AZ

Register online now at:

November 18th, 2020: 3pm – 4pm Central

The Role of Industry-Academia Partnerships in Preparing K-12 Students for Transportation Careers

Building engagement and creating positive impact on a future workforce requires strategic, collaborative efforts between K-12, higher education, and industry. This webinar features the T-STEM Academy at East High School in Memphis, TN. Now in its 4th year, this program demonstrates how a successful model of transformative partnerships can lead to a unique, industry-engaged, STEM-for-all student experience. Join us as we explore this innovative model, driving factors behind the program’s success, and lessons learned along the way.

The University of Memphis Southeast Transportation Workforce CenterEvent Host: The Southeast Transportation Workforce Center, University of Memphis

Featured Speakers:

Stephanie Ivey, Director, Southeast Transportation Workforce Center
Lischa Brooks, Executive Principal, T-STEM Academy at East High School
Keith Booker, CCTE/STEM Lead, T-STEM Academy at East High School
Special guest student presenter from the T-STEM Academy at East High School
Special guest industry speaker

Register online now at:

December 3rd, 2020: 1pm – 2pm Eastern

Providing Training and Education During the Pandemic: Challenges and Solutions at State DOTs

This webinar shares the experiences and problem-solving approaches to maintaining effective training programs that meet the needs of employees and their agencies, with a look at:

    • How TDOT is adapting class activities to a virtual environment and deciding which programs to move forward, all while dealing with technical issues and pandemic restrictions.
    • How Vermont’s Strategic Workforce Committees are connecting with employees across the state regarding Learning & Development, Manager & Supervisor Resources, Employee Retention & Recognition, and Talent Acquisition.
    • CDOT’s process of problem ID and solution, course/program prioritization, program reinvention and rollout as a response to COVID restrictions, and highlighting some of the tools used to register, track, and report on training completions.

Event Host: The Northeast Transportation Workforce Center, University of Vermont Transportation Research Center & Rutgers University Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation

Northeast Transportation Workforce Center at the Vermont Transportation Research CenterFeatured Speakers:

Glenn McRae, Director, Northeast Transportation Workforce Center
Elena L. Knaffl, Training Specialist, Tennessee Department of Transportation
Colleen Montague, Learning Development & Support Manager, VT AOT
Kevin MacVittie, Maintenance & Operations Training Manager, CDOT

Register online now at:

Creative Leadership:  Building a Culture of Innovation

His focus, now, is doing this during difficult times.  You are all welcome to register through the NY LTAP (they use Zoom) and attend this event.

To register and for more information please go to the following link:

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

Presentation Description

Innovation and creativity are absolutely necessary to thrive in business, hiring, motivating, marketing, parenting, educating, coaching… Are you and your organization becoming more – or less – creative? Jonathan’s TED Talk on this topic won the best speaker of the conference. Participants will learn 5 core strategies to build a culture of creativity. Lessons and memorable anecdotes come from some of the most creative people and organizations in history, as well as Jonathan’s personal experience implementing these lessons as an entrepreneur, parent, educator, and with clients large and small. What Jonathan calls the “innovator’s equation” has been a game-changer for leaders across the country. This was a favorite for a global entrepreneurship summit in Sydney, Australia.

Learning Objectives:
1. How can you intentionally foster the traits of the world’s most creative people?
2. What questions, stories, and models will get you and your team “unstuck”?
3. What is the “Innovator’s Equation”? – Jeff Hyatt (Hyatt Hotels) called this the greatest leadership lesson of the decade.

Future Transportation Workforce Video Awarded Gold in Telly’s General Recruitment Category

WASHINGTON – A video created as part of the Transportation Research Board’s centennial celebration has been named the winner of three 2020 Telly Awards, which annually showcase the best work created within television and across all types of video production.

The video, Your Future in Transportation, highlights the excitement, challenges, and fulfillment that those who select transportation as their career can expect to enjoy.

“This is an exciting time of transformation in the transportation industry, and this award-winning video puts a spotlight on how young people have the opportunity to make a difference in the world by choosing transportation as a career path,” said Sandra Larson, transportation innovation strategies leader, Stanley Consultants Inc.; and chair, Centennial Task Force.

The video was produced as a partnership between the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) and the Transportation Research Board (TRB), a division of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

“TTI and its transportation research experts have been active TRB volunteers for six decades, and we are pleased to have had the opportunity for our video production team to work with our partners at TRB on this award-winning production about the future of transportation and transportation careers,” said Greg Winfree, TTI agency director.

“I recommend that anyone who cares about the future of transportation, and the important role it can play in providing an equitable quality of life for all our citizens, view this video and then pass it along to their local school system with the request that it become part of their community’s STEM curriculum.” added Neil Pedersen, executive director, TRB.

“In addition to research and technology transfer, t

Online Job Board Connects Workers to Transportation Construction Openings

(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
Associated Press

RICHMOND, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) –A new job board aims to connect Virginians with available jobs in the transportation industry.

The Virginia Department of Transportation worked with its industry partners, including the Virginia Transportation Construction Alliance and the Virginia Asphalt Association, to create the Virginia Transportation Construction Job Board. According to a release, this online board provides information and links to jobs across Virginia with a wide range of skills sought, including positions that require little or no prior experience.
It was designed to target the transportation construction industry, which is a sector where workers are critically needed during the peak construction season. The release says there are already more than 200 available positions posted and more are being added every week.  “The Virginia Office of Transportation Innovation and Research coordinated with industry and VDOT to identify a more direct way to communicate job availability within the transportation sector,” said Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine. “The Construction Job Board is a smart investment that supports infrastructure, workforce and economic recovery.”

Chief Workforce Development Advisor Megan Healy adds that this will be a valuable took for connecting people to jobs as well as having opening accessible through the Virginia Workforce Connection online service.

“No industry can be completely free from the impacts of COVID-19,” said Jeff Southard, Executive Vice President of VTCA. “But, our members are focused on ensuring that the health and safety of the transportation construction workforce remains strong while we deliver the economic benefits of a robust transportation program to the Commonwealth.”

For more information, click here.

MIT forecast: autonomous vehicles won’t take truckers’ jobs

Truck drivers do more than just drive, and widespread self-driving tech is at least a decade away, researchers say.

truck driver generic

That prognosis isn’t stopping proponents from investing in the sector. In recent weeks alone, Alabama’s Auburn University said it is building an $800,000 addition to the autonomous vehicle research facility at the school’s National Center for Asphalt Technology (NCAT), allowing experts to run tests indoors. And the self-driving truck provider announced a plan to test its autonomous driving system with the Transportation Research Center Inc. (TRC), an independent vehicle test facility that operates a proving ground track in Ohio.

MIT said investments like those have produced substantial recent progress by the industry, but concluded that fully automated driving systems that have no safety driver onboard will take at least a decade to deploy over large areas, even in regions with favorable weather and infrastructure. And areas with winter climates and rural areas will experience still longer transitions, as the technology’s expansion will likely be gradual and will happen region-by-region in specific categories of transportation, resulting in wide variations in availability across the country, researchers said.

That conclusion came from a brief titled “Autonomous Vehicles, Mobility, and Employment Policy: The Roads Ahead,” co-authored by John Leonard, Task Force member and MIT Professor of Mechanical and Ocean Engineering and Erik Stayton, an MIT Doctoral Candidate in History, Anthropology, and Science, Technology, and Society. The study followed the school’s interim 2019 report, “Work of the Future: Shaping Technologies and Institutions,” where MIT researchers sought to analyze topics like manufacturing, health care, tax reform, skills/training, and emerging technologies such as collaborative robotics and additive manufacturing, also known as three-dimensional (3D) printing.

Another reason that autonomous trucks may not lead to a widespread loss of logistics jobs is that truck drivers do more than just drive, the MIT authors said. “While many believe that increased automation will bring greater impacts to trucking than to passenger carrying vehicles, the impact on truck-driving jobs is not expected to be widespread in the short term,” the study found. “Human presence within even highly automated trucks would remain valuable for other reasons such as loading, unloading, and maintenance.”

In the longer term, logistics transportation employers can preserve job prospects for drivers by following policy recommendations in the study, such as: strengthening career pathways for drivers, increasing labor standards and worker protections, advancing public safety, creating good jobs via human-led truck platooning, and promoting safe and electric trucks.

Read the full article on DC Velocity!