The National Academies

NCHRP 23-39 [Pending]

A Guide to Developing Construction Inspector Career Path Programs

  Project Data
Funds: $350,000
Contract Time: 30 months
Staff Responsibility: Jennifer L. Weeks


State departments of transportation (DOTs) are experiencing a shortage of trained, experienced, and credentialed transportation construction inspectors (CIs).  For over two decades there has been an attrition of CIs due to retirements and agency downsizing in the post-interstate era of the state DOT workforce.

NCHRP Research Report 1027: Guide to Recruiting, Developing, and Retaining Transportation Infrastructure Construction Inspectors identifies 18 factors affecting an agency’s ability to attract and retain skilled and certified CIs. One of the more significant of these factors is the lack of clearly defined career paths for CIs where specific professional development can lead to specific career advancements and opportunities.

State DOTs face substantial competition in the hiring and retention of CIs from the vertical construction industry (building) and by private sector contractors, where career opportunities may be better defined and promoted. For many state DOTs, the career advancement opportunities for a CI are unclear and individuals look at inspection positions as a job and not a career.

Career paths for CIs should lead to improved staff retention of highly skilled employees with responsibility for safeguarding the quality of state DOT infrastructure during construction, while also providing transferable skills that could be applied to other agency jobs. Research is needed to identify proven practices and strategies for developing career paths that could be adopted by state DOTs to build and retain construction inspection labor pools. 


The objective of this research is to develop a guide to the development and implementation of career paths for CIs at state DOTs. The guide will lead agencies through a process for selecting from and implementing a range of career path components that would meet their agency’s needs. The guide should provide options that will help state DOTs to tailor career path programs that will attract and retain CIs.

Accomplishment of the project objective will require at least the following tasks.



Task 1.  Conduct a literature review of published research and agency documents to identify and discuss the factors that affect the construction inspector career path. The review should identify alternative methods and strategies used by state DOTs, other agencies, and industries that provide the construction and inspection of civil infrastructure. The review shall include an examination of other disciplines that have successfully established career paths for CIs that attract and retain a variety of individuals to their industry.

Task 2.  Building on the information gathered in Task 1, design and implement an engagement plan of active and potential employees that generates detailed information on the factors that influence career decisions, including the reasons for becoming (or remaining) CIs. Engagement shall include representatives from diverse and underrepresented groups in civil infrastructure and other science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)-based career paths.

Task 3. Design and implement stakeholder engagement of employers, industry representatives, and/or trade organizations to build on the information collected in Task 1, particularly to collect sample practices and strategies for attracting and retaining individuals to CI jobs. This engagement should also solicit position descriptions, workforce development programs, and documented career paths for people in CI.

Task 4. Prepare an annotated outline of the guide containing specified career path components and clear instruction for selecting among them. This document will be presented and discussed with the panel in Task 5. 

Task 5. Prepare an interim report that documents the research conducted to date. Include an analysis of the data collected, and lessons learned. Include a Phase II work plan that identifies remaining tasks proposed to address any identified gaps in the research and meet the research objective. NCHRP will convene an interim meeting in Washington, DC, to discuss the work conducted in Tasks 1-5.



Task 6. Execute the work plan according to the approved interim report.   

Task 7. Prepare draft final guide with CI career path components and instructions on how to apply them for panel review.

Task 8. Prepare final deliverables to include:

  • A final report that documents the conduct of research;
  • A guide to preparing a CI career path with specific CI career path components;
  • An Executive Summary document, tech brief, or brochure;
  • PowerPoint presentation of the research and final products for posting and presentation to transportation construction industry forums and conferences; and
  • A stand-alone technical memorandum titled “Implementation of Research Findings and Products”. This memo shall contain a specific marketing strategy for the research, targeting different audiences for whom the research products may be of use. 

STATUS: Proposals have been received in response to the RFP.  The project panel will meet to select a contractor to perform the work.

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