Changing Workforce Development Needs for Regional Transit and Transportation Planning Agencies in California

The transportation industry is facing a workforce development crisis, the result of a combination of factors including the retirement of baby boomers and a lack of trained personnel in fields such as engineering, construction management, and intelligent transportation systems (ITS). The public sector will be particularly hard hit. It also faces the threat of attrition at senior levels as skilled workers move to the private sector. These trends are forcing public transportation agencies and private industry to consider the role that succession planning, job recruitment and job retention play in their missions and training strategies. The nature of the workforce replacing soon-to-be retired workers is also changing. There will be more women, more Hispanics and more Asians seeking employment. Most of the studies done to assess the impact of changing trends on the transportation workforce have focused on the national and state levels. Little, if any, research has been done on the training and workforce needs at the regional level, particularly in the case of the public sector where Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs), Councils of Government, and transit agencies may be engaged in both transportation planning and operations. Particularly, in California, the workforce capacity of MPOs will be challenged by the 2008 passage of Senate Bill (SB) 375. This research attempts to identify the workforce needs of California's regional transportation planning agencies as well as regional transit agencies. Through online surveys and interviews with members of Councils of Governments, MPOs, and transit agencies, the project will consider issues as wide ranging as recruitment, funding, curriculum-related needs, the role of in-service training, and future workforce issues. Findings will contribute to our knowledge of how workforce development trends at the regional level differ from those at the state and federal level and how policy measures may impact the workforce needs of the transport sector. This work builds upon U.S. Department of Transportation/Federal Highway Administration (USDOT/FHWA) funded research presently under way by the principal investigator. This work has involved the identification of model strategies for transportation workforce development, and the development and pilot testing of curricula that respond to gaps revealed in the analysis of current programs. The National Center for Metropolitan Transportation Research (METRANS) funded project takes advantage of the knowledge base developed as part of this effort and focuses on the regional transportation agency where a lack of research is evident. Findings will be presented in a final report and be submitted for publication with relevant academic and industry journals.