T3 Webinar Question and Answer Transcript

Educating Students for ITS Careers: Are Universities Meeting the Challenge?
(February 6, 2014)

Back to Webinar Files

Q. I'm assuming that on the university level, whether undergrad or graduate, there are no programs offering degrees on ITS operations, or perhaps in systems engineering, or even programs that offer students the option of minoring in the ITS program area.

Mac Lister: I would comment that I'm not aware of any. There are specific courses. There are certificates available through CITE and perhaps others in the future. But there's not a degree program at this point that I'm aware of. And if anybody is aware of anything, please let me know. We'd be happy to evaluate that and look and see how we can get that information out to people through our website.

Q. If such degrees or minors exist, how do these universities make it happen?

Mac Lister: Yeah, I think my answer to that—and I'll ask the other panelists to comment on that as well—is one of the reasons it hasn't happened is because of both the diversity of the application of ITS in operational areas so there are just broad areas of information and knowledge needs. But also, the rapidly changing technology in the field as well. Both of those things, I think, contribute to the difficulties and the challenges.

Peter Martin: The closest thing to an ITS degree is a master's in transportation from a school with an ITS core, an ITS background.

Q. Are universities working toward any adult learning educational programs for the existing workforce and the many career changes entering the field who may not have a degree?

Peter Martin: It's really ad-hoc. There are little bits and pieces out there, but you know it's really not much shape right now.

Mohammed Hadi: Just for one aspect of that is maybe consideration of giving courses for engineers that universities can also offer like P.E. kind of course, credits for P.E. kind of course for like 16 hours or 24 hours and we have been considering doing this for a while. So it would be for continuous education and to fill the P.E. requirement in Florida—they have to show certain amount of hours. So that would be something that some of that at the same time introduced some of the engineers that have not got the chance for formal education of ITS to take the course.

Mac Lister: Another, perhaps, perspective on that question is community colleges and how they might fit into that answer as well. I have done some discussion with some community colleges and done a couple of presentations at community colleges events. As of this date, I haven't been able to really entrench anything in ITS in those fields. Community colleges tend to develop programs where they have links to specific job markets in their local areas. So, for example, Macomb Community college in Michigan has quite a lovely automotive lab and their students that go through that lab and get certificates get hired by Ford Motor Company to work in their dealerships for maintenance. Tidewater Community College in Virginia has a connection to the ship building industry there and they feed students into the ship building industry. We haven't been able to in ITS kind of establish enough of a group of jobs available to get community colleges to move into this area, but I keep exploring it and keep hoping that that might be an avenue for us as well.

Peter Martin: There is an online option. It's managed out of Fargo, North Dakota through the Transportation Learning Network, TLN, www.translearning.org/. And they manage online courses that are delivered from universities across the U.S. and so it's a shopping basket type of degree you put together. I've taught on that. I've taught ITS on that course online and there are a whole variety of options. There are existing university graduate courses and you put them together. I think it's 12 or 15 credits and you can actually earn a certificate. This is blessed by U.S. DOT so it's not a home-spun thing.

Q. At TRB, I heard a strong demand from the audience for the training, educating, and certifying of TMC operators. Are universities doing anything about this demand and demand for other lower level positions? Are universities the correct resource?

Mohammed Hadi: Yes. And just want to mention one thing that they are doing in the TMC of DOT district for in Fort Lauderdale—they call it TMC Academy. Basically, they come up with about ten different courses in various aspects to teach the TMC operators like fundamental of traffic engineering. Like ITS technology and things that they are not exposed to because of their background. And they found out that this helps a lot in there by making them understand those that helps a lot and they ask me to participate in teaching those courses or sessions. So some of those sessions are taught by them, by the TMC manager, the DOT TMC manager, and the DOT traffic operation engineer. But the other ones I participated in also—they come and visit us at ITS lab at FIU and we introduce them to ITS research so they get amazed by saying “Wow, the data that we are looking at every day, you guys are really making use of it.” So we found that to be very rewarding and interesting.

Reza Karimvand: This is Reza with Arizona DOT again. We have a couple of programs that we try to attract students from the undergraduate level. One of the programs that we have is an intern program. The requirement for the intern program is the student must be within the sophomore level and then an undergrad. So the intern program is 20 hours a week. They work at the TOC, Traffic Operations Center. And they learn about how ITS relates to congestion management and they learn how, literally, to work in that field. And then at the same time, they get introduced to other things within the ITS arena. So that's one program that we have. Another program that we have called EIT or FE rotation. FE rotation is for students who have graduated with engineering degrees from four year colleges and then they pass their FE or EIT and they go through rotation of different departments. One of the departments is transportation technology, which I'm from that department. I lead that department. And they come through our department through different sections. They go through development team, design team, and they go through the field with our ITS maintenance to literally to see how they address the camera or DMS or RWIS problem. How they deal with that and then also they work at the TOC in different shifts and they literally try to put a message on DMS board and deal with that. So they work say, three months or four months within that TOC. We try to give them as much as possible to make them basically interested for their future career. So those are the two programs that right now we have actively pursuing in Arizona Department of Transportation.

Nicolaas Swart: Yeah. I think, from our perspective, it's mainly passing down of information that the other members of the TMC have and then also we do capture information in manuals and guidelines so at least when a guy comes in, there is something for him to start off. And hopefully that's a good base. And then we also supplement that through targeted training sessions or training opportunities that do come along. We do send people to these trainings and then also through webinar sessions.

Reza Karimvand: Okay. And since Nicolaas talked about that training things, we required those FE or EIT students or FE or EIT rotations they come through our department, we require them to go through different training, different webinar, different conferences, and we even encourage them to take the ITS project and one of our ITS project managers try to coach them to complete that project either with design consultant or in any way try to complete that ITS project to learn through the process how ITS relates to the design and implementation process. So we require them to go through that process to learn. And we had a very good luck. Some of those intern students, they came back and worked with us. So those are the routes that we are taking and we are trying to encourage those students to come back because they are our future forces within the ITS arena.

Mac Lister: Yeah. I have heard from a number of public sector stakeholders that when they have intern programs there, they really appreciate them because they know what they are getting and when they can get them back into full time jobs there is a plus-plus for everybody in that situation. So thank you for sharing that. We have three or four more minutes.

Q. Has the ITS industry agreed on what skills and disciplines would make up an accredited ITS program?

Mac Lister: The answer is no. And I do believe that there is additional work that needs to be done in that area. We are having conversations with ITS America and others looking at certification possibilities, certification programs. I'm not sure where all of that is going yet but the answer to the question is, unfortunately, no. There are things out there. There's an NCHRP 2077 study that talks about the knowledge skills and abilities for the operations professional and that's how ITS is used in operations. So that particular NCHRP study has a lot of information. But there's not an agreed upon standard.

Q. What can be done by professional societies, i.e. ITE and ITS America State chapters, to help engage students in ITS?

Mac Lister: Well, there are student chapters of both organizations. I can't really answer for them other than to say that we encourage that. I do know I was actually just kind of FYI for everybody the ITS World Congress this year is in September in Detroit and there is a major student day activity that is being planned to get as many as 1,000 students through the exhibit hall and into various presentations throughout the world congress so that's a step that ITS America is taking with the organizing committee for the world congress. I know ITE has student chapters and they are a good partner with us in developing ITS material. For further details, you'll really have to talk to ITE and ITS America.

Back to Top