Transportation has been a major factor in the growth of the United States, continues as a key driver for U.S. economic growth, and provides a commuter system and access to recreation facilities that Americans have come to expect and enjoy. From the early stage coach days to the railroads that opened the country to economic prosperity; to the interstate highway system that gave Americans a faster, safer means of travel throughout the United States; to the vast, multi-modal network of today; transportation makes a constant and consistent contribution to the quality of life of all Americans.
It was more than 50 years ago that President Kennedy proclaimed the “week in May of each year in which falls the third Friday of that month as National Transportation Week, as a tribute to the men and women who, night and day, move goods and people throughout our land” (Proclamation 3475 - National Transportation Week, 1962).
A lot has changed in the past 50 years, but the value of transportation to the United States remains constant. Today transportation employs more than 4 million men and women who “night and day, move goods and people throughout our land.” Transportation spending totaled $1.33 trillion in 2012, and represented 8.5% of the annual gross domestic product.
Who will carry forward the transportation legacy and assure that the United States has the transportation network that will meet the needs of a growing economy and expanding population? In many ways, transportation is at a crossroads of its own. As the result of baby boom generation retirements, competition for workers from other industries, and difficulty in recruiting women and minorities, developing a skilled, technically competent transportation workforce now and for the future is a challenge.
National Transportation Week provides an opportunity for transportation professionals to talk with teachers and students across the United States about the value of transportation to the United States and its citizens. Teachers can contact public or private transportation organizations and companies in their area to ask that a representative talk with students about transportation and transportation occupations including what their company or organization does in the community.
In 2016, National Transportation Week will be May 15-21. Most schools will either be out of session for the summer, or students will be taking final exams. Nonetheless, teachers and transportation professionals can talk to students in the last weeks of April about National Transportation Week and the value of transportation to the United States and its citizens.
Clearly not all students will pursue a career in transportation, but all students will be users of transportation systems. The more they know about transportation, the better and safer users they will be.
Below are some resources teachers can consider to help their students better understand transportation and transportation careers.
FAST FORWARD Electronic Transportation Magazine: Provides information about transportation including occupation and careers. fastforwardtransportation.com
Garrett Morgan Program Clearinghouse: The Garrett A. Morgan Technology and Transportation Education Program identifies STEM related transportation curriculum and educational programs at the elementary and secondary school levels. See the related article in this issue of Fast Forward: STEM Education to Receive a Big Boost through Garrett Morgan Program
Transportation Lesson Plans: Transportation related lesson plans that teachers can incorporate into existing 6-12 grade and community college math, science, and social studies curriculum. transportationcareers.org
National Summer Transportation Institute Programs (NSTI): Week long programs designed to introduce secondary school students to all modes of transportation careers and encourage them to pursue transportation-related courses of study at the college/university level. https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/civilrights/programs/nsti_faq.cfm
Transportation YOU: Sponsored by the Women’s Transportation Seminar (WTS) in partnership with the U.S. Department of Transportation is a hands-on, interactive, mentoring program that offers young girls ages 13-18 an introduction to a wide variety of transportation careers. www.transportationyou.org
Construction Career Day Programs: Construction Career Day events introduce high school students to the transportation construction industry. Do a search on construction career day to find a program near you.
Future City Program: A national competition, project-based learning experience where students in the 6th, 7th and 8th grade design, and build cities of the future. futurecity.org