Davidson County Community College offers programs
in electrical and plumbing, as well as different types of
welding, that they’ve been looking at bringing into local
high schools—or inviting high school students to their
campuses—so they have skill sets to find work, Holmes
says. These can run anywhere from 16 weeks to a year, with
the possibility of a stackable certificates and eventually an
associate degree in applied science, she says. “When you get
multiple certificates, you’re automatically working toward
an applied science degree,” she adds.
The college has a particularly long and fruitful involvement with commercial driver's license (CDL) education,
which provides a certificate in eight weeks and enrolls up
to 30 students at a time. This includes a classroom portion
where they learn the laws and safety guidelines, and then a
field portion where they learn how to drive and maneuver big
rigs that includes 20 hours behind the wheel. They talk about
everything from the importance of weigh stations, to the challenges of driving up and down inclines, to properly handling
“We have a lot of recruiters who come from all over the
country from different trucking programs,” Holmes says.
“Almost all of our students have job offers before they finish
the class. They’re ready to go the next day with the trucking
company. It is highly successful. We train students to be
Some students come to the program with checkered
pasts, including criminal backgrounds, which can limit
their prospects and create insurance-related hurdles, but
they usually can still find employment somewhere, Holmes
says. “This is a good program for students who need a
second chance,” she says.
Los Angeles Trade Technical College (LATTC) focuses on
frontline training in transportation occupations like heavy
duty truck and bus technicians, collision repair and hybrid
and alternative fuels, Guerra says. The college launched
a new program in 2015 in rail systems technology and
received a grant from the Federal Transit Administration to
establish the regional Transportation Workforce Institute.
“It’s hosted here at the college, but it goes beyond the walls
of the college, with a charge to focus on workforce develop-
ment for all frontline occupations in transportation--every-
thing from dispatchers to technical personnel, from supervi-
sors to mid-level managers,” he says. “A big component of that
has to do with recruiting a new workforce, and we’re establish-
ing deep connections with K- 12 programs.”
The institute also is establishing connections with four-
year universities to create career pathways into the trans-
portation industry on which students are moving up the
career ladder, Guerra says.
“It’s everything from professional curriculum develop-
ment, to a more high-level convening of education part-
ners, to a regional framework for addressing workforce
needs,” he says of the institute. “We’re a broker of services,
The aging and retiring workforce is creating challenges
for all areas of the transportation and infrastructure field,
including the need to capture institutional knowledge,
Guerra says. In southern California, this challenge is espe-
cially acute for the rapidly emerging passenger rail services.
“It’s creating a big need not only for the people who are
going to work on these systems but those who are going to
build them,” he says.
California’s decision to move ahead with high-speed rail
won’t affect southern California for a few years because
the shovels are going into the ground first to connect the
northern and central parts of the state, but those needs are
coming, as well, Guerra says. “Rail is a hot item, whether it’s
high-speed rail or on the transit side,” he says.
New technologies like hydrogen fuel cells will create
additional infrastructure workforce needs, Guerra points
out. “As we move forward with fuel cell, the bus companies
are starting to use hydrogen, but the infrastructure is defi-
nitely not there,” he says. “The technology seems to be ahead
of the infrastructure. … That’s a monster piece of work.”
To move forward on all these fronts, LATTC is work-
ing with partner organizations that have common goals
through the institute and other platforms, Guerra says.
“Collaborative projects will get us much further than any
one organization can accomplish on their own,” he says.
“Obviously, if the federal government steps in [with fund-
ing], it makes it that much easier. But we have a responsi-
bility, whether or not there is federal involvement, to keep it
Ed Finkel is an education writer based in Illinois.
Davidson County Community College has been successful offering commercial
driver's license education.