Companies nationwide are focusing on workforce development. As a creative way to attract quality talent and the next generation of professionals, Asphalt Testing Solutions & Engineering (ATS), an asphalt materials testing company in Jacksonville, Florida, participated in the US Department of Transportation’s (US DOT) sponsored program called the Women in Transportation Initiative (WITI). On Thursday, February 13, 2020, Tanya Nash, P.E., ATS Pavement Materials Engineer, presented the Week 6 portion of the curriculum to the WITI students at the ATS and Duval Asphalt facilities.
The WITI program is a White House initiative developed to expose female students to the transportation industry. Candidates are accepted into the program through an application process, and once accepted, they will receive 3 credit hours upon completion of the course. The first 8 weeks counts towards the WITI program and students receive US DOT credentials with an opportunity to intern at the US DOT.
The University of Florida Transportation Institute (UFTI) offers this program to its students in partnership with Women of Asphalt and companies in the asphalt industry. Carlos Villanueva, US DOT’s SE Region Community Relations and Outreach Manager is thrilled with this partnership. “Working with industry partners is a key element to the success of this program,” he said. “Students are able to engage with employees, see the jobs that are filled by women and get a true hands-on experience beyond theory alone.”
Last Thursday, the students, Villanueva and Wendy Guerra, US DOT Bonding Education Program Coordinator, arrived at the Duval Asphalt production site where they were treated to lunch sponsored by Women of Asphalt. Nash presented the “Asphalt Production” section of the curriculum during lunch, then following the lecture, Steve McReynolds, ATS Director of Operations, toured the students through Duval Asphalt’s plant and the ATS labs so they could see the testing and quality control protocols vital to asphalt production. “I was impressed with the meaningful questions the students asked both before and during the tour,” said McReynolds. “After learning the concepts about how asphalt is made, it helps tremendously to actually see production firsthand. The students were able to engage with our employees to see how much pride they take in their jobs and how everyone works together to produce and test a quality mix that ultimately leads to a smooth, safe ride for all.”
“The tour at Duval Asphalt and ATS was a great experience!” said Villanueva. “The students really appreciated seeing all the moving parts work together during asphalt production and testing and meeting all the people who run the businesses day to day.”
Throughout this semester students will learn about all aspects of the asphalt industry including Liquid Bitumen, Aggregate Mining, Asphalt Production and Construction, Equipment, Asphalt Mix Design and Research and Development. Anticipating much success from the partnership with UF, accomplishments will be shared with other US DOT regions and universities in hopes of further collaboration.
“This is a great way to introduce transportation-focused students to the asphalt industry,” said Nash. “Women tend to be intimidated by professions that are predominately men. I think the WITI program is a great way to overcome that fear, clear up any misconceptions and fill the gaps in our workforce. I have a successful career in the asphalt industry; why wouldn’t I let other women know that they can have successful careers here too?”