The National Academies

NCHRP 02-25 [Active]

Workforce 2030--Attracting, Retaining, and Developing the Transportation Workforce: Design, Construction, and Maintenance

  Project Data
Funds: $700,000
Staff Responsibility: Lawrence D. Goldstein
Research Agency: ICF Inccorporated
Principal Investigator: Dr. Candace Blair Cronin
Effective Date: 5/15/2019
Completion Date: 5/15/2021


As noted in a 2015 report, “Strengthening Skills Training and Career Pathways Across the Transportation Industry,” released jointly by the U.S. Departments of Education, Transportation, and Labor, the U.S. Department of Transportation spends $51 billion annually on construction, repair, and operation of our nation’s highways, bridges, and public transportation systems—a significant investment benefitting multiple dimensions of society. Every $1 billion invested in the transportation infrastructure produces 13,000 jobs across multiple industry sectors.  Much of this investment is in highways and bridges developed, constructed, and maintained through state departments of transportation (DOTs).  In FY 2016, state governments added an additional $126 billion in transportation infrastructure spending (Total US Government spending). 

Agencies are increasingly challenged by the availability and preparedness of the design, construction, and maintenance workforce.  Despite the growing demand for new and replacement staff, budget challenges will mean that state DOTs will likely be working with a significantly smaller workforce than desired.  Looming retirements will also put additional demands on staffing as many new workers will require significant training to meet present and future demands.

To manage the dynamics of meeting tomorrow’s design, construction, and maintenance demands with a smaller workforce, state DOTs need robust human capital programs that can attract and train engineers, technicians, and maintenance workers needed to maintain the U.S. highway infrastructure.  The workforce shortage among state transportation agencies has evolved over time, and state DOTs recognize that challenges cannot be overcome without significant changes in workforce recruitment and training practices.  By starting to address the need for long-range human capital strategies, Workforce 2030 is envisioned as a first step on the pathway for sustaining a qualified workforce.

While the shortage in the transportation construction workforce runs parallel to workforce shortages in other industries, state DOTs face unique challenges.  It has already been established that, in general, state DOTs are unable to offer employees the same pay scales and benefits as private companies. Other contributing factors have not been as well researched.  For example, many public agencies struggle to maintain technical career paths that reward and support the development and retention of staff with valuable specific skill areas. In addition, the demand for transportation construction, reconstruction, and maintenance work is increasing.  Providing improved human capital programs that effectively attract, retain, and develop quality personnel throughout the industry is critical.


Note: For the purposes of this project, the scope will be limited to transportation workforce in design, construction, and maintenance.

The objectives of this research are the following:

1.    To produce a roadmap of effective human capital strategies for state DOTs, identifying critical areas necessary in the future to attract, retain, and develop a sustainable, qualified transportation design, construction, and maintenance workforce;

2.    To identify trends, policies, and processes critical for developing and maintaining an adaptive organizational framework that will attract, retain, and develop a qualified workforce beyond 2030; and

3.    To prepare an evidence-based guide that transportation industry organizations may use when developing and establishing an effective human capital program for a qualified workforce into 2030 and beyond.

Final deliverables will include at a minimum: (1) a guide as specified above (metrics, tools, strategies); (2) a final report that documents the entire research effort; (3) an executive summary as a stand-alone document that outlines the research findings and recommendations; and (4) a presentation (e.g., a Microsoft® PowerPoint, video, etc.) aimed at state DOT senior staff and identified decision-makers that simply and concisely explains why the guide and supporting materials are helpful and how they will be used.  Final deliverables will also include a stand-alone technical memorandum entitled, “Implementation of Research Findings and Products.” 

STATUS: NCHRP has received the draft final deliverables and anticipates publication soon.

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