A Framework to Promote Diversity & Inclusion in Workforce Development in Southeast States (STRIDE Project E5)

Transportation is one of the essential components in a society for accessing various resources and opportunities. However, as we witnessed transportation’s vulnerability during the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of creating a workforce that can effectively meet the needs of the communities in which they operate in became more urgent. This means that more of a push needs to be made to create a workforce with a diverse set of skills, experiences, and capabilities that will be able to engage with vulnerable communities, especially during a crisis and recovery phase.

Dr. Mehri “Mehrsa” Mohebbi of the University of Florida Transportation Institute (UFTI) along with her co-PIs Dr. Virginia Sisiopiku (from the University of Alabama at Birmingham) and Dr. Dimitra Michalaka and Dr. Kweku Brown (both from The Citadel) have embarked on an effort to create an equity-diversity-inclusion (EDI) framework for transportation workforce development in the southeastern states. The project highlights the roles that University Transportation Centers (UTCs) can play in providing training for promoting EDI in the transportation workforce.

This framework will be shared with transportation agencies, higher education institutions, and national organizations such as the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), American Planning Association (APA), Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE), and the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT).

“The findings of this project will ultimately encourage transportation agencies to reaffirm their commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion in the workforce, and allow future diversity efforts to gain a better understanding of what has and has not been successful in the past,” Dr. Mohebi said.

Dr. Mohebbi and her research team plan to undertake this effort by first identifying existing training programs in the southeast that expand choice and opportunity for all within the transportation workforce. They will then evaluate the training programs for achieving diversity and inclusion. The final step will involve the development of an EDI framework for transportation workforce development in the southeastern states.