Local transportation agencies in Minnesota are facing a growing workforce shortage. In a recent project, the Minnesota Local Technical Assistance Program (MnLTAP) led the creation of tools to help expand the transportation workforce and fill open positions—today and tomorrow.
The tools take a two-pronged approach: One set helps local agencies attract and retain workers in the short term, while another set helps agencies promote career opportunities to students and feed the longer-term worker pipeline.
The project was sponsored by the Minnesota Local Road Research Board (LRRB). MnLTAP is housed within CTS and sponsored by the LRRB, the Minnesota Department of Transportation, and the Federal Highway Administration.
“Many local public works agencies have an approved construction program and constituents knocking on the door demanding improvements, but they don’t have enough qualified staff to deliver the work,” says Stephanie Malinoff, senior director of engagement and technical assistance with CTS. “Positions can remain open for a long time and sometimes are never filled. Frustration builds, agencies remain understaffed, and maintenance and construction projects get delayed—none of which are ideal conditions.”
Malinoff, who also serves as MnLTAP’s director, was the project’s principal investigator. The project was guided by a technical advisory panel of experienced transportation professionals representing local agencies and private firms from around the state, as well as workforce leaders and technical school representatives.
“The workforce is changing rapidly across all industries,” says Chris Byrd, county engineer in Benton County and the project’s technical liaison. “Those of us in the transportation industry can see a great need for skilled workers in the future. We have some big challenges ahead of us to address our aging and deteriorating road and bridge infrastructure. With the advent of electric and automated motor vehicles, the transportation industry hasn’t seen changes this exciting since Henry Ford mass-produced the Model T. The Expanding the Transportation Workforce project has created and identified tools that transportation industry professionals can use to excite and inspire individuals to work in our industry.”
Several tools aim to meet short-term needs:
- Recruitment Toolkit for Local Agencies. This 9-page toolkit includes best practices and resources such as sample job descriptions and job postings; social media, targeted advertising, and other strategies; and Minnesota employment services.
- Training Roadmap for Civil Engineering Technicians. This tool is a spreadsheet that supervisors and employees can use to identify and plan training needed for civil engineering technician positions, which are a particular need for many local agencies. Users can download the spreadsheet and fill it in electronically or print it out and write in their updates. The roadmap’s flexible design allows users to adapt it to the unique needs of both the agency and the employee. An accompanying 10-page user guide includes tips for supervisors and employees, key factors for successful on-the-job training, and case studies with local agency success stories.
Other tools are intended to grow the workforce pipeline:
- Community Outreach and Communication Guide. This 8-page guide will help local agencies raise awareness in their communities about transportation careers. It includes tools, tips, and strategies to plan and manage outreach activities and communicate with students. An accompanying product is a spreadsheet with activities that agencies can use to spark interest when they meet with K–12 students.
- Local Agency Careers in Minnesota. This is a 12-page brochure that local agencies can use to introduce students to transportation careers. Agency personnel may hand out the brochure at high school presentations or during career fairs at the shop or office, for example.
All the materials are available on the MnLTAP website.