Building a Sustainable Workforce in the Public Transportation Industry---A Systems Approach

There is consensus on significant workforce challenges facing transit leaders across North America--retirement of baby-boom era employees, a generally tight labor market, increasing technological requirements across job functions, and growing diversity of the workforce. The transit industry faces a critical shortage of skilled and seasoned employment as thousands of workers from the baby-boom generation near retirement over the next 5 to 10 years. There have been recent studies conducted by the industry, including Leadership APTA program participants, on strategies for attracting Generation X, Y, and Millennium to jobs and careers in public transportation, particularly "green collar" jobs. The research has shown that having proactive and systematic approaches to address future workforce development needs is critical as the industry is faced with a competitive job seekers' market. Building on the success of implementing recommendations outlined in APTA's 2001 report, "<em>Workforce Development: Public Transportation's Blue Print for the 21<sup>st</sup> Century</em>," a 1-year blue ribbon panel was established on workforce development representing the public and private sectors of the transit industry, key stakeholders, and partners, including labor, academia and the next generation of leaders in the industry. The panel was charged with (1) reviewing the research and recommendations of the earlier workforce development initiative; (2) identifying gaps, new opportunities, programs, and services geared to helping to create and sustain a vibrant, efficient, and effective workforce; and (3) defining APTA's role in providing ongoing support to members and the industry on these issues. In 2008, APTA created a long-term vision of public transportation's role in the fabric of the nation's surface transportation system over the next several decades: "In 2050, America's energy efficient, multimodal, environmentally sustainable transportation system powers the greatest nation on earth." Across the North American continent, trends in population, urban growth, energy, environment, and economics all point favorably to a ripe, robust future for public transportation. As part of this vision, the public transportation industry has career appeal to a new, diverse population of the best and brightest. Growth challenges since 2009 have required an intense effort to attract, train, and develop a new workforce on the scale of the U.S. space program of the 1960s. The many individuals who want to work in "green collar" jobs will recognize public transportation as an "employer of choice." A unified work plan for the next 5 years was presented at APTA's October 2009 annual meeting, and development of the association's 2010-2014 Strategic Plan is underway. Recommendations of the blue ribbon panel will require implementation of activities emerging from the panel's strategic vision and plan. These projects may include new programs, projects, and services to address the following: image and branding; higher education issues, including the role of colleges, universities, community colleges and technical/vocational schools; youth outreach and awareness programs;<span>   partnerships and collaborations, including labor-management partnerships; development of performance metrics to determine the return on investment (ROI); and the impact of authorization of the federal public transportation law and other legislative proposals on workforce development. Moving forward toward implementation of these recommendations, there will be a need to conduct a comprehensive workforce development assessment for the public transportation industry. This assessment will provide a thorough overview of the evolving challenges and opportunities faced by the transit industry and the related implications for its workforce. The objectives of this research would be to (1) assess the current and future business environment of the public transportation industry as it relates to workforce development and human capital issues and resources; (2) develop industry models that could measure the ROI for training strategies and other human capital resources, and establish a framework for regular benchmarking; (3) identify "best practices" and new business models with respect to key issues recognized by the industry, including the impact of labor-management partnerships; and (4) assess the current perception of the public transportation industry as an "employer of choice," and identify how these perceptions might be addressed through image and branding strategies, including an emphasis on "green collar" jobs. The research would identify the complex influences that continue to present challenges that require the industry to adapt, innovate, and invest, particularly in relation to its human capital. The findings will assist in the development of a forward-thinking and sustainable human capital and resources strategy applicable to the next decade. One of the key deliverables would be a guide outlining a framework for workforce development planning for the decades ahead. 


  • English


  • Status: Proposed
  • Contract Numbers:

    Project F-16

  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Federal Transit Administration

    1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
    Washington, DC  USA  20590

    Transit Cooperative Research Program

    Transportation Research Board
    500 Fifth Street, NW
    Washington, DC    20001
  • Project Managers:

    Chisholm-Smith, Gwen

  • Start Date: 20101001
  • Source Data: RiP Project 25248

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01461677
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Transportation Research Board
  • Contract Numbers: Project F-16
  • Files: TRB, RiP, USDOT
  • Created Date: Jan 3 2013 1:50PM