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Michigan taps high school students to fill growing need for careers in transportation

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With a still sluggish economy, the quicker high school students are prepared for their future, the better.

Perhaps it was the thought that led The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) and the Federal Highway Administration to team up and create a more diverse transportation workforce for the future with the Youth Development and Mentoring Program.

It is a perfect time to pursue a career in transportation in our state. Any Michigan resident can tell you the very roads they need to get absolutely everywhere always seem to be under construction and there is a growing emphasis on the need for a rapid transit system in Southeast Michigan.

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The need for people to fill transportation jobs also is growing nationwide.

A 2015 government report says 4.6 million workers will need to be hired and trained in the industry due to growth, retirement and turnover through 2022.

For every $1 billion invested in transportation infrastructure investment in the US, 13,000 jobs will be created over the next 10 years, according to the report, a combined project from the U.S. Department of Labor, Department of Education and Department of Transportation.

Many states, Michigan included, have found it difficult to find the dollars needed to fix the roads. The legislature will continue to feel great pressure from residents to find those dollars. A solution will be found and that will open up more transportation jobs in the future.

While the Youth Development and Mentoring Program (YDMP) will employ young people, it does not stop there. It will provide them with the opportunity to pursue higher education, personal growth, and transportation careers.

“The program values responsibility, empowerment, respect, integrity, relationship-building, and safety,” says Kimberly Avery, MDOT southwest region engineer. “MDOT offers mentoring activities and sessions to teach job and life skills, introduce college and university options, and present high school students and recent high school graduates with information about careers in civil engineering, road construction and maintenance, planning, and other areas of transportation.”

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The program is open to high school students or recent graduates. To apply you need to be at least 16 years old, have a 2.5 cumulative GPA, and a letter of recommendation from a teacher counselor or principal. There may also be a need for a valid driver’s license, depending on what position you apply for.

If hired, the students or former students will make between $9 and $12 an hour. That is at least 50 cents more per hour than the state minimum wage.

There are multiple member and team leader positions available. You can find out more or apply at

The YDMP is not just training for jobs and pay. It is also a chance for the kids to receive mentorship. With this mixture of experiences, the goal is to broaden communication skills, develop leadership qualities, and help them see not only the positions available in the transportation field, but also the potential.

The young people will visit MDOT facilities, tour construction sites and educational institutions, and participate in college and career fairs. In addition, they will receive practical, hands-on experiences that will provide opportunities and exposure to various aspects of transportation and help them prepare for other career opportunities.

To further help them find successful careers, the Michigan Civil Service Commission provides an option for on-site career planning and résumé writing to participants at each region office. Mentoring sessions will be conducted for YDMP participants who will have the opportunity to attend several types of training and mentoring activities, including college readiness planning, personal finance and accounting, résumé writing and interviewing, and participation in activities at private engineering firms specifically tailored to introduce surveying, concrete testing and analysis, civil engineering, and other transportation activities.

It is too easy for even young people to feel trapped, either that they can’t move out of a situation or if they don’t or can’t follow one path that  they are doomed.   For some kids, this may be a way out of that mental trap and into a successful career.

Find out more or apply at

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