America faces a profound mismatch between the needs of urban communities for quality jobs and careers and the parallel needs of industries (especially urban industries) for qualified applicants for front-line workforce technical jobs. Many industries chronically complain of a shortage of qualified applicants – especially young applicants – for technical blue-collar jobs, even as the retirement of the Baby Boomer generation is opening up millions of vacancies in those very jobs. Conversely, people of color concentrated in inner cities have much higher rates of unemployment and poverty than the country as a whole, while inner-city high school dropout rates exceed 30, 40 and even 50 percent.
The public transportation industry is strategically positioned to leverage good public policy and far-sighted leadership to positively address both ends of this paradox. Public transportation is an essential public service, critical to the economic health of every city. Public policy and public investment in public transportation provide potential policy levers that can improve career access outcomes for urban populations. Public transportation is inherently an urban industry: the bulk of public transportation jobs are in metro areas, transit passengers are metro voters, and by definition urban residents make up the bulk of city school populations and voters. It has been argued persuasively that the possibilities for creative progressive coalitions linking infrastructure and job strategies are stronger in urban areas than at the statewide or national levels.
Expanding access to quality careers in transit systems and in transit capital construction has been the focus of innovative local programs around the country in recent years. This report presents case profiles of two of the most promising examples – one for youth Career Pathways into transit industry careers, and one for targeted construction hiring and training of disadvantaged workers for transit capital projects.
A report by the Transportation Learning Center.