December 2021Vol. 29, No. 4

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Tools help expand the transportation workforce

photo of one Black and one white male workers on a road construction site looking at a tablet together and wearing hardhats and safety vests

Photo: Shutterstock

Local transportation agencies in Minnesota are facing a growing workforce shortage. In a recent project, Minnesota LTAP led the creation of tools to help expand the transportation workforce and fill open positions—today and tomorrow. The tools take a two-pronged approach: One set helps local agencies attract and retain workers in the short term, while another set helps agencies promote career opportunities to students and feed the longer-term worker pipeline. The project was sponsored by the Minnesota Local Road Research Board (LRRB).

“Many local public works agencies have an approved construction program and constituents knocking on the door demanding improvements, but they don’t have enough qualified staff to deliver the work,” says Stephanie Malinoff, MnLTAP director and the project’s principal investigator. “Positions can remain open for a long time and sometimes are never filled. Frustration builds, agencies remain understaffed, and maintenance and construction projects get delayed—none of which are ideal conditions.”

The project was guided by a technical advisory panel of experienced transportation professionals representing local agencies and private firms from around the state, as well as workforce leaders and technical school representatives.

“The workforce is changing rapidly across all industries,” says Chris Byrd, county engineer in Benton County and the project’s technical liaison. “Those of us in the transportation industry can see a great need for skilled workers in the future. We have some big challenges ahead of us to address our aging and deteriorating road and bridge infrastructure. With the advent of electric and automated motor vehicles, the transportation industry hasn’t seen changes this exciting since Henry Ford mass-produced the Model T. The Expanding the Transportation Workforce project has created and identified tools that transportation industry professionals can use to excite and inspire individuals to work in our industry.”

Tools to meet short-term needs

photo of two white mail construction workers putting equipment into place

Recruitment Toolkit for Local Agencies. This nine-page toolkit includes best practices and resources such as sample job descriptions and job postings; social media, targeted advertising, and other strategies; and Minnesota employment services.

Training Roadmap for Civil Engineering Technicians. This tool is a spreadsheet that supervisors and employees can use to identify and plan training needed for civil engineering technician positions, which are a particular need for many local agencies. Users can download the spreadsheet and fill it in electronically or print it out and write in their updates. The roadmap’s flexible design allows users to adapt to the unique needs of both the agency and the employee.

Agencies can use the tool to plan training for new hires. “The benefit to this approach is that local agencies can broaden the applicant pool, as the necessary training to work as a civil technician will be provided once hired,” Malinoff says. Agencies can also use the tool to prepare current staff for advancement, identifying skillsets and training needed for succession planning and other specific responsibilities.

Employees also benefit from the roadmap. Staff with different backgrounds, experiences, and educational levels can identify what’s necessary to meet their goals and chart a path for career growth—a major factor for retaining skilled workers, particularly those from younger generations.

The roadmap has links to training options from a wide range of providers. Users can customize the tool by adding other courses, trainings, certifications, and categories. An accompanying 10-page user guide includes tips for supervisors and employees, key factors for successful on-the-job training, and case studies with local agency success stories.

Tools to grow the workforce pipeline

Community Outreach and Communication Guide. This eight-page guide will help local agencies raise awareness in their communities about transportation careers. It includes tools, tips, and strategies to plan and manage outreach activities and communicate with students. An accompanying product is a spreadsheet with activities that agencies can use to spark interest when they meet with K-12 students.

Local Agency Careers in Minnesota. This is a 12-page brochure that local agencies can use to introduce students to transportation careers. Agency personnel may hand out the brochure at high school presentations or during career fairs at thes shop or office, for example.

Learn more:

Want to participate?

Minnesota LTAP is interested in coordinating outreach activities to introduce youth to careers in local agency transportation departments. If you are interested in participating, please email Katherine Stanley at