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Publication Number:  FHWA-HRT-08-005    Date:  Jul/Aug 2008
Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-08-005
Issue No: Vol. 72 No. 1
Date: Jul/Aug 2008


The National Highway Institute (NHI)

Training Update

by Stacy Stottmeister

NHI Partners to Develop Maintenance Leadership Academy

To strike a balance between teaching cutting-edge technologies and showcasing pragmatic real-world applications, the National Highway Institute (NHI) relies on input from practitioners and technicians across the country to assist in training development. These highway professionals already carry a demanding workload but make time to serve as technical panel members and subject matter experts to support NHI in developing new courses. For NHI, the goal of this partnering effort is to ensure that its training remains directly applicable to improving on-the-job performance in the field.

A recent example of this collaborative approach is the development of a new series of courses known as the “Maintenance Leadership Academy.” The academy features six modules covering maintenance administration, roadways and shoulders, roadside maintenance and drainage, weather-related issues, traffic services, and environmental issues. The modules can be presented individually or as a group. To make the most of classroom time, NHI is designing some materials and modules for self-paced study.

“We are taking a blended approach to the training,” says Chris Lane, a project manager at one of the firms assisting in developing the maintenance leadership academy. This blended approach makes use of Web-based training modules, webinars, and homework assignments that require participants to apply knowledge learned in the classroom to specific procedures practiced at their departments of transportation (DOTs).

With more than 100 hours of course content to be communicated, the developers understand that maintenance supervisors cannot be away from their jobs and in the classroom for the full amount of time required for the training. “Our plan is to bring people together in the classroom for discussion and group exercises, and then we will send them back to their offices where they can continue their education,” Lane says.

About the Academy

Participants in the training course will learn to develop an operational plan for their assigned preservation activities and how to determine the appropriate processes and procedures for executing work associated with maintenance and preservation activities. During the 4-week course, participants will learn to organize strategic and tactical tools, how to articulate procedures and expectations to their workforce, and to demonstrate the components of quality service using the maintenance program. Course instructors also cover how to calculate performance and results data for agency reporting and how to develop, communicate, and justify budgets to supervisors, managers, legislators, the local workforce, and the public.

Workers are placing a chip seal on pavement, a common preventive maintenance treatment to help restore the surface characteristics of pavements in good condition.
Workers are placing a chip seal on pavement, a common preventive maintenance treatment to help restore the surface characteristics of pavements in good condition.

Chris Newman, a systems preservation engineer in the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Office of Asset Management, is leading the effort. He assembled a team of training development and engineering professionals as well as a technical panel including Richard Clarke, Utah Department of Transportation; James Feda, South Carolina Department of Transportation; Joseph Gregory, FHWA; Michael Mattison, Nebraska Department of Roads; Steve Mueller, FHWA Resource Center; Jim Sorenson, FHWA; and Pat Sullivan, Arkansas State Highway and Transportation Department. The course is being developed in partnership with the Transportation Curriculum Coordination Council.

Filling the Staff Pipeline

Most important, representatives from State DOTs are assisting the firms developing the academy. According to Jim Feda, director of maintenance for the South Carolina DOT, the maintenance leadership academy is something that is drastically needed. “We’re losing a lot of good talent, and new employees are inexperienced. The academy will help bridge the gap. I wish we would have had something like this when I first joined the DOT.”

With large numbers of seasoned highway professionals retiring, remaining supervisors require new team members to come up to speed quickly. Supervisors are looking for effective and efficient training, but on-the-job training over a long period cannot keep up with the increasing pace of new technology implementation.

Transportation professionals in the private sector are benefiting from the partnership as well. According to Richard Thackray, a senior technical adviser with one of the firms assisting in developing the academy, one of the main benefits of partnering with field practitioners and State DOTs in developing this project is getting “practical input on what information maintenance supervisors in the field really need.”

NHI expects to begin offering maintenance leadership academy modules in spring 2009. For more information, visit the NHI Web site at www.nhi.fhwa.dot.gov. To schedule a session, contact the NHI Scheduler at NHItraining@dot.gov.

Stacy Stottmeister is a contractor for NHI.



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