The Federal Highway Administration awarded $3 million in job training grants this week to eight states, targeting apprenticeships and training opportunities for underrepresented or disadvantaged people seeking careers in transportation, engineering or construction.
The money is going to training programs at departments of transportation in California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
"Providing individuals with the job training opportunities they need is critical to keeping our highway system up and running," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. "Training programs like these create opportunities for workers in the short-term, and ensure that the next generation is ready for the challenges that will face America's transportation system in the years ahead."
According to USDOT estimates, more than half of the current highway construction workforce is over the age of 45. Through retirement, separation and growth, the department projects that more than half a million highway construction jobs will come open over the next decade.
The grants focus specifically on supporting innovative, nationally and regionally significant highway construction workforce development programs that build ladders of opportunity to the middle class for American workers.
The grants encourages strategic partnerships among state DOTs and other organizations or stakeholders involved with workforce development, such as educational institutions, public workforce investment systems and labor organizations to support training opportunities for minorities and women in skilled and semi-skilled crafts.
"On-the-job training along with other strategies reflected in these awards can connect people who need jobs with job opportunities," said FHWA Administrator Gregory Nadeau. "By giving people the specialized training our transportation system needs, we can ensure that our transportation system remains safe and efficient for decades to come."
Six state programs will receive grants of $400,000 each. Those go to California, Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Montana, and Virginia. Pennsylvania was awarded $398,750, while Idaho's grant amount is $198,076.
The grants target specific needs that vary among the states. For instance, Idaho will train heavy equipment operators and other skilled personnel to fill a statewide need. Missouri will address a shortage of carpenters and laborers. Montana will train Blackfeet Reservation members in heavy equipment operations and flagging for highway projects. Virginia will provide hands-on and classroom instruction about asphalt paving.