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Publication Number:      Date:  May/June 2000
Issue No: Vol. 63 No. 6
Date: May/June 2000


Many of You Are Familiar With The Classic Fable of 'The Ant and The Grasshopper'

DOT Is the Diligent "Ant"

In a field one summer's day, a grasshopper was hopping about, chirping and singing to its heart's content. An ant passed by, bearing along with great toil an ear of corn he was taking to the nest.

"Why not come and chat with me instead of working so hard?" said the grasshopper. The ant said, "I am storing food for the winter, and I recommend that you do the same."

"Why bother about winter?" said the grasshopper. "We have plenty of food."

But the ant went on its way and continued its toil. When the winter came the grasshopper had no food and found itself dying of hunger, while everyday, it saw the ants distributing corn and grain from the stores they had collected in the summer. Then the grasshopper knew: It is best to prepare for the days of necessity.

The future is full of uncertainty, but as sure as the ant knew that food would be hard to come by in the winter and that some preparations were needed to avert a predictable disaster, the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) recognize that action is required today to prevent a debilitating lack of transportation experts and engineers in the future.

"We are at a crossroads in the transportation field," said Secretary of Transportation Rodney E. Slater. "Much of the nation's seasoned [transportation] work force is retiring. Meanwhile, the demand for both traditional and new skills is expanding. One in seven jobs in America is transportation-related, and that ratio means we will continue to need skilled transportation workers for many years to come."

That's why Slater and FHWA have been champions of programs to encourage today's students - from kindergarten to college - to consider careers in transportation. Almost exactly three years ago, on May 30, 1997, Slater kicked off DOT's Garrett A. Morgan Technology and Transportation Futures Program. Slater continually challenges students to develop their proficiencies in math and science, prerequisites for a career in transportation.

That's why in February 2000, FHWA sponsored for the first time a special award in the Future City Competition that is part of the activities of National Engineers Week. Seventh- and eighth-grade students design futuristic cities by computer and build scale models.This year, FHWA gave an award to the team that best incorporated transportation elements in their prototype future city. (See related article on page 22.)

And that's why this summer, FHWA is adding five colleges and universities as host sites for the National Summer Transportation Institute (NSTI). Last year, 30 colleges and universities and more than 645 secondary students from across the country participated in the NSTI program. It features a four-week introduction to all modes of transportation and to careers in transportation as well as academic enhancement activities. (See the list of participating institutions on page 54.)

"As we seek to develop a skilled work force to meet the transportation needs of the next century, FHWA must continue to take steps to ensure that young students see the importance of transportation to economic growth for the country and the potential for career opportunities in transportation," said Federal Highway Administrator Kenneth R. Wykle.

Sure, there are plenty of problems today to occupy DOT and FHWA, but part of being "vigilant and visionary," the twin challenges of Secretary Slater to the employees of the department, is to look ahead and to head off the looming problems of future. Under these circumstances, it is a compliment to be called an ant.

Bob Bryant




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