A career opportunity that springs from a shortage of labor for highway maintenance, the Highway Maintenance Management Program is a pathway to employment for Front Range Community College students.
The Colorado Department of Transportation and college partnered this fall to initiate the online course, part of the requirements for an associate of applied science degree.
The program is a response to a gap in the Colorado highway maintenance workforce, which reports an estimated 830 openings annually. Salaries for entry-level positions to maintenance management range from $36,000 to $88,000, depending upon experience.
“CDOT has been lacking in qualified applicants and having to promote from outside because there wasn’t anybody inside,” said Rob McArthur of Woodland Park, a supervisor with Douglas County Public Works. He represents 335 local government agencies in Colorado. “Local government agencies maintain 80% of the roads in this country.”
McArthur was previously public works director for Green Mountain Falls. The 55-year-old was the first student to complete the Highway Maintenance Management program.
FRCC’s highway-maintenance curriculum includes courses on engineering techniques, highway materials such as asphalt, concrete and gravel, along with equipment operations, emergency management and erosion/sediment control.
Students who earn the associate’s degree have met the minimum requirements for an interview with a transportation department. “Five years from now, this program will be a preference pretty much for every job posting,” said McArthur, who once worked on the CDOT maintenance crew on Red Mountain in the San Juan Mountains. “Ten years from now it will be a prerequisite.”
For high-school students, the program provides an opportunity to become an intern/apprentice in a transportation department. From there, the student can earns bachelor’s and master’s degrees in highway maintenance.
McArthur intends to be a model for others to follow. “It wasn’t easy to get back into this game; you have to navigate through the college system online so it’s completely different from anything I was ever involved with before,” said McArthur. “I am constantly giving feedback to Front Range Community College on what they can do to improve the program in a rural setting where there are connectivity issues.”
The first of its kind in the nation, the Highway Maintenance Management Program in Colorado is comprised of eight weeks of courses that include 1,500 discussion points.
For information, call Susan Baillargeon, director of the maintenance program at FRCC, at 970-204-8175 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.