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Publication Number:      Date:  July/August 2001
Issue No: Vol. 65 No. 1
Date: July/August 2001


Careers in Transportation Moving Everyone and Everything - Everywhere

In the first article of this issue, "HELP WANTED - Meeting the Need for Tomorrow's Transportation Work Force," Clark Martin discusses a critical problem facing the transportation industry, including both the public and private sectors. Transportation professionals and workers are going to be retiring in droves over the next 15 years as the Baby Boomer generation leaves the work force.

This situation will affect almost every career field. For example, a Senate subcommittee found that by 2004, a staggering 53 percent of the federal work force (900,000 employees) will be eligible to retire, and the Government Accounting Office "has added the work force problem to the list of the government's 'high-risk' areas." And it's not just a federal problem. The Rockefeller Institute of Government "estimates that a full 40 percent of the state and local government employees will be eligible to retire in the next 15 years." The institute calls the situation the most "significant talent and brain drain ever experienced by government."

The challenge is not simply to replace these retirees but, as Martin explains, to recruit replacements among a "new generation of employees [who] will bring a different set of priorities, values, and talents into the work place. … [And] the competition for qualified professionals will be fierce, as almost every sector of business, industry, and government grapples with the same problem."

Martin goes on to describe some of the ways in which the Federal Highway Administration is addressing the challenge. Because we are all affected in many ways, including economically, by the efficiency of our national transportation system, it is to our advantage individually, as well as collectively, to do everything we can to encourage young people to consider careers in transportation.

Serendipitously, a co-worker discovered and told me about a Web site that should be perused by all teenagers as they contemplate their futures. The "Careers in Transportation" site (http://dothr.ost.dot.gov/Employment_Opportunities/employment_opportunities.html) is part of the Web site for the Departmental Office of Human Resource Management of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), and it "describes occupations in transportation fields. It was designed primarily to provide young people with a general description, salary range, and educational requirements of various transportation occupations."

The site includes a welcome from Secretary of Transportation Norman Y. Mineta. He says, "We want you to help us build the transportation systems of the future, and we want to help you develop the math, science, and technology skills needed for tomorrow's transportation jobs. As part of the [Garrett A. Morgan Technology and Transportation Futures] program, the Department of Transportation has prepared this handbook to help you learn more about the exciting careers in transportation."

The site also describes existing partnership programs in which DOT participates, including summer internships, summer transportation institutes, the Eisenhower Fellowship Program (see the article on page 13), on-the-job training, and the Urban Youth Corps. Points of contact are provided for each program.

But I think the most useful part of the Web site is the description of 33 transportation career fields organized in seven categories. These careers run the gamut from brake operators on a train to urban/regional planners. The urban and regional planners page, for example, explains the types of jobs available in the field, the training needed, and the expected salary range, and it provides fairly substantial responses to the questions: How many people are urban and regional planners? What's it like to be a planner? How do I become a planner?

I encourage you to check it out. More importantly, I encourage you to recommend it to your young relatives, friends, and acquaintances and to school teachers and counselors, too.

Bob Bryant





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