Workforce Training

A key aspect of the NCHRP Project on TSMO Workforce included a detailed assessment of existing TSMO education and training materials and programs.  Knowledge of existing materials and programming was essential for a thorough assessment of existing gaps and the development of a strategy to attract and prepare the next generation TSMO workforce.  The research team leveraged current work by the National Network for the Transportation Workforce (NNTW) related to the National Transportation Career Pathways Initiative (NTCPI) related to workforce development to expedite research.

In addition, the research team conducted a broad review of professional organization and government agency TSMO resources and integrated input from the project stakeholders to conduct an initial assessment of gaps and determine the appropriate framework for organizing existing information.

This review resulted in a comprehensive list of existing TSMO-related undergraduate, graduate, and professional development programs and courses which was then developed by NOCoE into the TSMO Workforce Training Database.
 

In addition to the material below and the workforce training database, other industry resources continue to train and educate the TSMO workforce:

  • ITS Heartland's TSMO University is an important collection of resources aimed at expanding TSMO knowledge for public and private practitioners. In addition to winning a NOCoE TSMO Award, a case study on their efforts was development.
  • The Regional Operations Leadership Forum (ROLF) continues to expand the use of TSMO around the country. See here for more information, including how to bring the ROLF to your region.

Available Education and Training Programs

Investments in training to support TSMO include the training itself, which should include a basic level of understanding of TSMO and what it offers to the organization for all management employees, more specific TSMO training for employees who work in TSMO-related functions (e.g.  traffic operations, maintenance, performance management, ITS), and specialized training for specific TSMO functional areas.  Basic training should be developed and offered in-house as part of ongoing professional development.  More specialized training can be provided in-house or obtained through outside sources such as professional organizations, universities, or Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) workshops.  A strategic approach to TSMO training will require the development of a formal training plan, which will require an investment in time by TSMO management and HR staff to determine the specific and general training needs, sources, and associated policies for training.  Existing training and certification programs should be used to augment TSMO workforce professional development.  Given the wide spectrum of knowledge required to operate a TSMO program, there are many organizations that provide training, certification, and research related to TSMO.  The table below lists organizations that offer TSMO-related training, certification, or conduct TSMO-related research.

Organization TSMO Related Training and Research

Organization

Training Provider

Certification

Direct TSMO Research

Indirect TSMO Research

American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials

X

 

X

X

America Consulting Engineers Companies

X

 

 

 

American Public Transit Association

X

 

 

 

American Road & Transportation Builders Association

X

 

 

X

American Society of Civil Engineers

X

 

 

 

American Traffic Safety Services Association

X

 

 

 

Consortium for ITS Training and Education

X

X

 

 

Community Transportation Association of America

X

X

 

 

Connected Vehicle Trade Association /Mobile Comply/ Society of Automotive Engineers International

X

X

 

 

Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals

X

 

 

X

Eno Center for Transportation

X

 

 

X

International Municipal Signal Association

 

X

 

 

Institute of Transportation Engineers

X

 

 

 

Intelligent Transportation Society of America

X

 

 

 

ITS Standards Training

 

 

 

 

National Academy of Sciences/ Transportation Research Board

X

 

X

X

National Highway Institute

X

 

 

 

National Operations Center of Excellence

 

 

X

X

National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies

 

X

 

 

National Transit Institute

X

 

 

 

Occupational Safety Institute

X

 

 

 

PDH Source

X

 

 

 

Small Urban and Rural Transit Center

X

 

 

X

United States Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration Office of Operations

X

 

X

X

United States Department of Transportation ITS Joint Program Office

X

 

X

X

United States Department of Transportation Volpe Center

 

 

X

X

 

A review of all Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, Inc. (ABET) accredited civil engineering programs in the United States (based on ABET program listing as of October 2018) revealed nearly 800 transportation-related undergraduate courses and almost 550 graduate courses being offered in civil engineering departments across the country.  Course descriptions were analyzed and courses were categorized by both modal focus and topic area.  Topic areas were aligned with the categories from the professional development program assessment where possible.  However, many of the topics assessed for professional development programs were not found in the review of undergraduate and graduate courses.  This may be due to the fact that course descriptions did not provide the level of detail necessary to fully assess course content or that many of the topics required for professional development are emerging as the field of transportation operations evolves and this content has not yet made its way into college-level courses.  Thus, a more concise and somewhat broader set of topics was used to analyze the undergraduate and graduate courses.  The table below shows the topic areas examined for professional development and college courses.

Topic Areas Analyzed for College and Professional Development Courses

Civil Engineering College Level Courses

TSMO Professional Development Courses

  • Data Management
  • Technologies/ Applications
  • Network or System Analysis
  • Economics or Policy
  • Systems Architecture
  • Connected Vehicles
  • Data Management
  • Decision Support
  • Performance Management
  • System Security
  • Systems Engineering
  • Technologies/ Applications
  • Traffic Maintenance

 

The results of the review indicate that the vast majority of undergraduate courses have a multi-modal focus, and the majority concentration on engineering/design, followed by planning and operations.  Given that most civil engineering programs require only one course in transportation, these results are not surprising as the introductory course typically provides a survey of topics, with a primary focus on design.  Figure 22 provides results of the analysis of modal focus, and Figure 23 presents topical focus for the 774 undergraduate courses reviewed as part of this project.  As some courses provided content for more than one content area, the summation of percentages is greater than 100%.

Somewhat different results were found for graduate programs.  Of the 543 courses, the majority provided a multimodal or road (traditional traffic/highway) focus.  For course topic areas, courses in design and planning comprised less of graduate offerings, while more emphasis was found in operations, safety, technologies and applications, and network or systems analysis than in undergraduate programs.  Appendix A provides a full listing of undergraduate courses and Appendix B a full listing of graduate courses reviewed as part of this project.

There are currently more than 300 post-secondary education programs available for TSMO-related professional development or post-secondary training offered outside of a formal collegiate setting.  Table 10 describes the training available by category.  It is apparent from this analysis that there are several topics with limited resources available for professionals, particularly training related to legal procurement and system security for TSMO.  Advanced training on all TSMO topic areas is sparse.  The topics that have received the greatest attention are those related to engineering/design, operations, safety, and technologies/applications in TSMO. 

Inventory of Existing TSMO Training

Topic Area

Training Level

Total

Advanced Basic Introductory

System Architecture

1

4

6

11

Connected Vehicles

-

22

1

23

Data Management

2

8

-

10

Decision Support

-

12

-

12

Engineering/Design

1

32

2

35

Leadership

4

9

-

13

Legal

-

3

-

3

Traffic Operations

6

22

2

30

Performance Management

2

15

3

20

Planning

3

25

3

31

Procurement

-

4

-

4

Safety

1

27

1

29

Standards

-

13

4

17

Strategy/Challenges

-

12

-

12

System Security

-

5

-

5

Systems Engineering

1

9

2

12

Technologies/ Applications

-

25

5

30

Traffic Maintenance

9

28

2

39

Grand Total

30

275

31

336

 

Other Areas of Investment to Strengthen TSMO Workforce

There are several other areas that agencies can invest in that help strengthen the TSMO workforce.  In addition to strengthening the TSMO workforce, investments in these areas are often far-reaching and may also improve the non-TSMO workforce.  The areas of investment discussed below include: improving HR systems, formalizing career paths, enhancing employee morale, establishing relationships with educational entities, and ensuring adequate hardware and software.

To strengthen the TSMO workforce across transportation agencies, investments should be made in training, development, and the systems that support the hiring and retention of TSMO professionals.  Meeting changing needs for a TSMO workforce requires investing in HR systems that are capable of tracking time, professional education, and certifications.  HR policies and procedures must become more flexible than traditional systems around time, travel, training, and expenses, and HR staff will need to focus on new ways to support recruiting and training TSMO professionals who do not fit traditional agency functions of design, build, and maintain.  This will require new software systems, training for HR staff, and an investment in reviewing and revising current policies and procedures.

Agencies should consider investments in developing and formalizing career paths for new and emerging specialties in TSMO.  Without defined paths for nontraditional and emerging jobs, it is often difficult to attract and retain employees whose KSAs may be more closely aligned with career paths in other industries.  For example, if a Cyber Security Engineer position does not offer clearly articulated advancement opportunities within a transportation agency, it will be difficult to recruit and retain talented applicants.  Investments in professional development and advancement opportunities should be defined within the agency for emerging and nontraditional positions.

An important aspect of enhancing employee morale in today’s workforce is defining and highlighting a sense of purpose, particularly among younger and non-traditional transportation employees.  Although it is not generally considered a strategy to enhance workforce satisfaction, a clearly defined agency mission supported by performance measures and specified outcomes provides a sense of purpose for employees.  Investing in strategic planning and performance management provides a benefit not only to the agency as a whole, but it also benefits TSMO workforce and staff morale by articulating the importance of the work to the community, society, and the economy.  This is an important aspect of retaining employees in public sector agencies, especially those in emerging areas that may offer higher pay and benefits in other fields. 

An important area for investment is in developing strong, long-term relationships with universities for the development and recruitment of future TSMO professionals.  This requires active engagement of TSMO professionals with future professionals to promote TSMO and build interest and enthusiasm for TSMO careers.  This can include kindergarten through 12th grade students as well to help shape their understanding of possible career choices.  Identifying schools with which to engage, developing a regular program of outreach, and defining the subjects and techniques for engagement should be part of a strategic effort to build strong relationships.

As new technology-based positions are established, investment in associated technology is needed to support these new positions.  To properly equip employees to do their jobs, new hardware, software, systems, and updates will be needed.  Just hiring a new TSMO Modeling Specialist or Visualization Specialist, for example, without the tools needed to effectively perform the job functions is not only ineffective, but frustrating to the new employee.

Each of the areas of investment should be considered at the agency level as emerging TSMO positions are established.  They should also be considered at the national level as potential areas for additional research.