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Publication Number:  FHWA-HRT-21-001    Date:  Autumn 2020
Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-21-001
Issue No: Vol. 84 No. 3
Date: Autumn 2020


Hot Topic

Celebrating the Anniversary of the Highway Maintenance Management AAS Degree Program

by Gay Dugan and Sabrina Sylvester

Two women in hard hats and high-visibility vests observe a highway construction site.
The AAS degree program in highway maintenance management can help prepare transportation professionals for advancement in their organizations.

Approximately 1 year ago, the first-ever degree program in the Nation for highway maintenance management opened for enrollment. Highway maintenance is essential to ensure the safety of U.S. roads, bridges, and highways, and therefore developing the Nation's highway maintenance workforce is critical. Understanding this need, the National Highway Institute (NHI), the Colorado Department of Transportation, Front Range Community College (FRCC), the Colorado Local Technical Assistance Program (LTAP), the Colorado chapter of the American Public Works Association, county agencies, and municipal public works departments all collaborated to make a degree program a reality.

The associate of applied science (AAS) degree in highway maintenance management at FRCC is a 2-year program that prepares highway maintenance professionals for advancement in managerial positions within their respective organizations. The curriculum is offered online, making it more accessible for students employed by State and local agencies across the country to pursue professional development in this field.

The program benefits highway maintenance employees looking for advancement in government agencies at the Federal, State, and local levels, as well as private sector organizations. Learners develop leadership skills including budgeting, project management, employee supervision, communications, and team building. The curriculum enables students to hone technical skills in maintenance and operations including highway safety, bridge maintenance, traffic operations, environmental protection, and emergency and incidental management.

Select NHI trainings in the asset management, construction and maintenance, and pavement and materials program areas are incorporated into the curriculum. These include one of NHI's premier training courses, the NHI-134063 Maintenance Leadership Academy. In addition, FRCC's prior learning assessment process enables students to receive college credit for their current industry experience, skillset, training, and certifications in their current jobs in highway maintenance.

According to Susan Baillargeon, FRCC's highway maintenance management program director, "the biggest appeal is to receive college credit for the knowledge they've been learning on the job." Students can transcribe their training with industry providers, including NHI and LTAP, to receive credit toward their degree.

The partnership between FRCC and industry organizations serves as a model for other States to create their own highway maintenance training program. There are already efforts within the educational community to work with States to establish accredited apprentice programs and foster interest in establishing similar programs in high schools, community colleges, and universities in other parts of the country. These efforts build on each other to support the workforce needs of the transportation industry and help increase diversity.

Also in its introductory year, the program was the recipient of the 2019 League of Excellence Award for the State of Colorado from the League for Innovation in the Community College, the only community college in the State to receive this award.

FRCC launched this award-winning AAS degree program in the fall of 2019, and about 35 students have completed the program thus far. "I'd love to see another 22 to 30 students this fall," says Baillargeon.

NHI continues to collaborate with industry professionals and organizations to ensure that its constituents receive quality highway transportation training that supports a performance-based culture and strategic, measurable approaches to manage resources to improve the conditions and safety of the Nation's roads, highways, and bridges—one course at a time, one program at a time.

To learn more about FRCC's highway maintenance management AAS degree program, visit http://bit.ly/PRHotTop_Aut2020. To learn more about NHI trainings, visit https://www.nhi.fhwa.dot.gov.

Gay Dugan is a training program manager at NHI.

Sabrina Sylvester is a contractor at NHI.