In what could become the standard for training women and minorities for the state’s road construction business, the Texas Transportation Institute (TTI) is heading up a new two-week program called the Texas Construction Career Academy funded by the Federal Highway Administration’s Office of Civil Rights. The innovative program will teach the basics of highway construction to create a pool of entry-level women and minority employees for eager contractors.
“For years now, despite the federal requirements, most construction companies have been unable to attract or retain qualified minority and female employees,” says Debbie Jasek, a member of TTI’s Center for Professional Development. “In many cases, women often quit their construction jobs soon after they’re hired. In part, the Texas Construction Career Academy will act as a screener to find the people who are suited for this type of work.”
Jasek is charged with leading and administering the Transportation Construction Diversity Employment Program (TCDEP), which is a joint effort between the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) Office of Civil Rights and TTI. Key partners that are actively working to ensure the success of the Academy include the Texas Engineering Extension Agency (TEEX), which will teach a portion of the course work, and the Association of General Contractors (AGC), which provides access and support of the Highway Contractors across Texas.
Finding the right people for the job is only part of the program, according to Jasek. “The participants will become flagger certified and learn various aspects of the construction business including safety, math and introduction to construction equipment.” Once hired, the employees have the opportunity for advancement participating in an on-the-job training program administered by AGC and contractors themselves.
Jasek and others have been working with contractors across the state in preparation for the six planned classes to be held this year in every Texas region. She has also had numerous contacts with local entities, which will help attract participants to the courses.
The first Texas Construction Career Academy will be held in Laredo beginning March 9.
Although the class is open to everyone, women and disadvantaged individuals are the focus of the program.
“I think this program has the potential to become a model for the way some road construction employees are hired not only in Texas but throughout the nation. We are all very excited about it,” Jasek says.