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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Workforce Development Initiative

Collage of four images of transit personnel engaged in training activities.
Photos courtesy Nina Barbiarz of the Southern California Regional Transit Training Consortium. Photos taken before COVID-19.

What's New

  • The Transit Workforce Center (TWC) held its first webinar, “Strategic Workforce Planning in Transit,” on Wednesday, April 27, 2022. This is the first of three webinars that will share best practices for creating an effective strategic workforce development plan. 
  • FTA and International Transportation Learning Center (ITLC) are excited to announce the Transit Workforce Center (TWC) is now open to provide technical assistance in support of public transportation workforce development needs to recruit, hire, train, and retain the diverse workforce. For technical assistance, complete the Technical Assistance Request form or email the TWC.
    • TWC's new initiative, the American Transit Training Apprenticeship Innovators Network (ATTAIN) supports the development of apprenticeships for frontline transit workers. Transit agencies interested in starting an apprenticeship or already have experience offering apprenticeships can join.
       
  • Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Hiring Preference. In 2021, FTA announced an initiative, implemented as a pilot program, to permit transit agencies to use hiring preferences on FTA-funded construction projects to promote equitable creation of employment opportunities and workforce development activities, particularly for economically or socially disadvantaged workers.  The initiative has transitioned in response to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which includes hiring preferences related to the use of labor for transportation construction projects. Section 25019 provides an express authorization for FTA grant recipients and subrecipients to use a geographical or economic hiring preference for the construction of federally supported transit projects. See the Federal Register Notice.

Transit Workforce Center

On August 2, 2021, FTA announced the award of a $5 million cooperative agreement to the International Transportation Learning Center (ITLC) to support the Transit Workforce Center (TWC). The TWC is the first FTA-funded technical assistance center to directly support public transit workforce development. Its mission is to help transit agencies recruit, hire, train, and retain a diverse workforce needed now and in the future. The TWC will also help address the national transit worker shortage by providing technical assistance activities geared towards developing frontline transit workers’ skills and recruiting workers to transit careers through various programs, such as apprenticeships, and partnerships.

Over the previous decade, FTA has invested more than $20 million for Innovative Transit Workforce Development, funding over 45 different grants. The TWC will build upon the findings of these critical investments by assisting transit agencies in developing comprehensive, research-based workforce development programs. In addition, the ITLC will facilitate partnerships between transit agency management and labor unions, which they have been doing over the last several years. ITLC will also use their extensive experience and knowledge of bus electrification operations and maintenance to reskill and upskill current and future transit workers. The TWC’s future efforts to assist the transit industry with electrification directly support the Biden-Harris Administration's goal of reducing Greenhouse Gas emissions by 50 percent by 2030 while creating good-paying union jobs. For technical assistance, complete the Technical Assistance Request form or email the TWC.

 

Female transit operator

As transit agencies look to the future, a diverse and robust workforce is more critical than ever. The #ConnectingMyCommunity toolkit from the national Transit Workforce Center provides sample strategies, tips and ready-to-use materials to design effective recruitment campaigns.

Overview

The FTA Workforce Development Initiative provides resources and support for public transit agencies to recruit, retain and train transit workers to ensure the transit industry has the workforce needed for today and in the future. Elements of the initiative include:

  • Cooperative agreements with transit agencies to develop innovative workforce projects
  • Reports and information on the results of those projects
  • Meetings and conferences to gather information about public transit agency workforce issues/concerns
  • A new transit workforce technical assistance program

Over the last decade, FTA provided over $20 million to fund innovative workforce grants, and to date, most of those grants are complete. See the evaluation reports. This initiative also ensures that agencies can upskill, reskill, and hire an equitable and diverse workforce for current and new jobs emerging through advanced technologies.

FTA’s Workforce Development Initiative seeks to:

  • Provide a roadmap and strategic support to help transit agencies recruit, retain, and train their workforce for today and tomorrow
  • Develop resources to ensure equity and diversity in the public transit workforce
  • Help agencies use the half of one percent available from urbanized area formula grants and other funding investments to develop workforce initiatives that address the unique needs of each agency
  • Partner with the Department of Labor to help agencies leverage funding and initiatives across both federal agencies
  • Help support the development of internships, apprenticeships, and/or work-based skills training
  • As needed, develop a transit curriculum for transit operators and engineers/technicians especially in safely working with low or zero-emission buses while ensuring there is no duplication of training activities led by the National Transit Institute
  • Support academic and technical trade education partnerships, especially with community colleges
  • Assess and develop partnerships with social services programs to ensure workforce development programs also have resources to support worker transitions from other fields or from disadvantaged backgrounds

Eligible Activities

FTA’s Workforce Development Initiative is authorized under FTA’s Technical Assistance and Workforce Development Program (49 U.S.C. § 5314). The types of projects eligible for funding under this program include 1) technical assistance, 2) human resources/training, and 3) innovative public transportation frontline workforce development.

  • Technical assistance activities
  • Human resources and training projects including:
    • Employment training programs
    • Outreach to specific under-represented populations in the workforce
    • Research on public transportation personnel and training needs
    • Training and assistance for veteran and minority business opportunities
    • Consensus-based national training standards and certifications in partnership with industry stakeholders
  • Innovative public transportation frontline workforce development projects including:
    • Developing apprenticeships, on-the-job training, and instructional training for public transportation maintenance and operations occupations
    • Building local, regional, and statewide public transportation training partnerships with local public transportation operators, labor union organizations, workforce development boards, and State workforce agencies to identify and address workforce skill gaps
    • Improving safety, security, and emergency preparedness in local public transportation systems through improved safety culture and workforce communication with first responders and the riding public
    • Addressing current or projected workforce shortages by developing partnerships with high schools, community colleges, and other community organizations

Eligible Recipients

Eligible applicants depend upon what type of project is being funded. Typically, eligible recipients include urban and rural transit agencies; state departments of transportation (DOTs) providing public transportation services; Metropolitan Planning Organizations; Indian Tribes; nonprofit institutions; and institutions of higher education. 

Statutory References

Technical Assistance and Workforce Development Program (49 U.S.C. § 5314)

Allocation of Funding

Workforce Development Program projects are funded annually under the Technical Assistance and Workforce Development Program (49 U.S.C. § 5314). 

Match

Typically, federal grants under this program provide an 80-percent government share, leaving a 20-percent match requirement for recipients. Recipients may derive that match through in-kind activities not funded by the Federal government and match from other Federal agencies as noted in the Coordinated Council on Access and Mobility resources on match. 
  
However, projects funded under Technical Assistance and Workforce Development Program (49 U.S.C. § 5314 (a)), through a cooperative agreement (not a grant), may be funded at 100 percent and not require a local match. 

Funding Mechanism 

Competitive Cooperative Agreement 

Previously Awarded Workforce Projects

 Additional FTA Resources

Last updated: Wednesday, September 14, 2022