URI transportation ‘academies’ aim to develop future workforce for transportation industries

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KINGSTON, R.I. – July 25, 2008 – Bridge design, supply chain planning, blueprint reading, and fields trips to the port of Davisville and a R.I. Department of Transportation construction site are just some of the activities taking place in the next three weeks as part of a unique new series of transportation “academies” for high school and middle school students.

Sponsored by the RIDOT and the Federal Highway Administration and hosted by the University of Rhode Island Transportation Center, the events are designed to encourage students to pursue careers in transportation-related fields.

“Many companies in the transportation industry have a hard time finding enough trained workers to get the job done, and that’s partly due to the fact that students often don’t think of the transportation field as a career option,” said Deborah Rosen, director of the URI Transportation Center and associate dean of the URI College of Business. “Our transportation camps and academies are designed to develop the transportation workforce of the future, and to do that we have to reach them when they’re still young.”

The 20 students in the engineering academy, which runs July 28 to Aug. 1, will study highway and bridge design, traffic engineering, water resources, Geographic Information Systems, surveying and preparing an estimate. They will also visit the RIDOT Transportation Management Center and Banneker Industries.

During the same week, the business academy will host 20 students who will learn how to manage a company’s supply chain through a series of interactive classes, games and exercises. They will tour the CVS distribution center and the port of Davisville and participate in a transportation quiz competition.

The construction academy targets 11th and 12th grade students considering careers in the construction field. Running the week of July 21, the curriculum includes OSHA 10 and flagger certifications, work zone safety, and hands on activities at the Local 57 Operating Engineers Training Center.

“Most students lack the information necessary to help them choose a career, so these programs give them that information so they can make informed decisions,” said Rosen. “It also provides them with role models, which is especially helpful for girls and minority students.”

Many students were recruited for the academies through URI’s Guaranteed Admissions/Talent Development Program, which provides a special opportunity for high school students from disadvantaged backgrounds to gain entrance to URI.

All of the students selected to participate in the academies receive a full scholarship to attend, which includes meals and transportation to URI from Providence. The academies are modeled after the National Summer Transportation Institute, a two-week summer camp for middle school students that is conducted in more than 30 states and that URI has hosted for the last four years. The first session of the institute concluded on July 18, and a second session will begin Aug. 4.

Participants in the Transportation Institute work with URI students and faculty members on bridge building exercises, learn map reading, study transportation math, and tour the Kingston train station, T.F. Green Airport, the Boston Museum of Science and the RIDOT maintenance facility.

These summer events are an extension of the annual Engineering Career Day and Construction Career Day sponsored by URI, RIDOT and Rhode Island Consulting Engineers. URI is home to the National Construction Career Day Center, which serves as a resource for agencies across the country that are interested in hosting a construction career day. More than 30 states and 250,000 students have participated in the last nine years.