– A North Carolina transportation official recently told the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure that more federal funding is needed for workforce development, particularly in economically-disadvantaged communities.
Tunya Smith, director of the N.C. Department of Transportation’s Office of Civil Rights, testified April 27 before the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure in a hearing titled “Examining Workforce Development and Job Creation in Surface Transportation Construction.”
NCDOT’s workforce development program is considered a model for others to follow. Smith said more funding is needed to ensure programs like North Carolina’s can thrive during a time when states are faced with a shortage of skilled laborers.
“We have several projects that cover almost every aspect of workforce development in the highway industry,” said Smith. She later added: “There is still work to be done.”
The state transportation agency’s workforce development programs focus on providing equal opportunity and access to all people and producing a professional transportation industry workforce that meets employer’s demands.
NCDOT’s program aims to ensure women, minorities and other disadvantaged populations can take advantage of the agency’s on-the-job training and other workforce development programs. The program has been expanded to include people with disabilities, as well as people who are about to be released from prison, veterans and people from the state’s poorest counties. NCDOT is also working to attract more Native Americans to work for the agency by collaborating with the N.C. Commission of Indian Affairs.
Smith said increasing funding is critical to the success of the agency’s workforce development programs, such as the Highway Construction Trade Academies for adults and the agency’s recruitment programs aimed at students in grade school. Without additional funding and flexibility for our programs, these and other workforce development programs would remain stagnant, she said.
The Highway Construction Workforce Partnership allows NCDOT to work closely with important stakeholders and partners, including the Carolinas Association of General Contractors, NCWorks and community colleges.
“The On-the-Job training program is a direct path to our future goals,” said Smith. “Our agency is one example and model of how the On-The-Job training program and its accompanying support services can and should operate and function.”
The FHWA mandates that state transportation agencies create and operate on-the-job training programs with contractors. To view Smith’s testimony, click
here. Smith’s testimony is from 20:34-25:38.