, Director, Outreach Services, Center for Transportation Studies
How can America build a skilled workforce for the 21st century transportation industry? Our answer: attract and educate the brightest young minds from diverse segments of society. This approach is described in our proposal for a National Summer Transportation Institute (NSTI) at the University of Minnesota. Our Institute will include a comprehensive academic curriculum in a two-week summer camp, field trips, and much more.
The opportunity for successful careers in transportation is clear. The science and engineering (S&E) workforce has shown sustained growth for more than a half century. The number of workers in S&E occupations grew from about 182,000 in 1950 to nearly 5.5 million in 2009. Looking ahead, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that, during the period 2008-18, employment in S&E occupations will grow by more than double the rate for all occupations (20.6 percent compared to 10.1 percent).
The pool of people to fill these jobs is becoming more diverse. Census data predict that by 2050 there will be no racial or ethnic majority in the country; in Minnesota, the portion of the population that is non-white or Latino is projected to reach 25 percent by 2035. As of 2010, however, Hispanics made up slightly more than 5 percent of workers in S&E occupations nationally, African-Americans a little under 5 percent, and American Indians/Alaska Natives 0.2 percent. These numbers need to increase.
One way to do so is to encourage students from diverse backgrounds to pursue a degree in science, technology, engineering, and/or math (STEM) fields. Such degrees can be a stepping-stone to exciting careers that change the face of the transportation industry.
The purpose of our Institute is threefold: to create awareness and stimulate interest in career opportunities in the transportation industry; enhance students' STEM skills; and attract and acquaint a broad and diverse selection of students to the various modes of the transportation industry.
Our Institute is targeted to students in grades eight and nine in the Twin Cities metropolitan area. The core of the program is a two-week, non-residential summer camp focusing on STEM curriculum. Held on the University of Minnesota campus, the summer camp will provide access to university infrastructure and faculty that may not be available in other programs. In addition, students will be exposed to disciplines and careers in all modes of transportation through field trips to businesses and governmental agencies and activity-based presentations by professionals.