Washington, D.C. — Two weeks ago, in the midst of issues swirling around the Highway Trust Fund crisis, senior officials from the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), and high-profile leaders from transportation’s private sector, took the time to meet with 21 high-school girls who have shown an interest in learning more about career opportunities in the industry.
Transportation YOU, a program of WTS International — the association for the advancement of women in transportation — capped off its year-long programs occurring around the U.S. at its flagship DC Youth Summit created for 21 standout young women and their mentors, women who themselves are rising leaders in the industry.
“The future of the nation’s infrastructure isn’t just in the budget, it’s in the talent and skills of the industry’s future leaders. It’s imperative to show young girls that sticking with their STEM talents can lead to a challenging and highly rewarding career in transportation. Partnering with WTS on the Transportation YOU program is a forward-thinking strategy will poise the USDOT for upward progress over the next 30 – 40 years,” said Bryna Helfer, DOT’s Senior Director of Public Engagement.
The Transportation YOU DC Youth Summit, which was designed to introduce, inspire, and guide high-school girls toward a future in STEM studies and a career in the transportation industry, spanned five days that included a visit to USDOT’s Crisis Management Center (CMC) for behind-the-scenes tour of the area.
Other activities included hearing from Victor Mendez, National Deputy Secretary of Transportation; one-on-one meetings with some of DOT’s female executives so that the students could ask questions about professional advancement in the industry; a trip to the FAA Command Center for more behind-the-scenes tours and an opportunity to hear from Vaughn Turner, VP of Technical Operations for the FAA’s Air Traffic Organization and special panel session with women in management at FAA.
A significant component of the five-day program was a special academic challenge project on the topic of transportation and communities. This year’s project, coordinated by a special team from Rutgers and Portland State Universities, introduced the Summit attendees to the impacts of transportation policies and infrastructure on the success of a community. They were split into teams to focus on various considerations for the Anacostia region of Washington, D.C. After group work and hands-on field study in the area the teams presented their findings in formal presentations.
“Each and every part of the Transportation YOU DC Summit is critical to illustrating to our attendees the depth and breadth of opportunities there are in this industry. The hands-on academic elements, behind-the-scenes tours, and networking events with women in various stages of their careers in disciplines across the board have a direct impact on how the industry is perceived as a viable career choice. Several of our Summit attendees have already reported they plan to change their intended study focus as they enter college next year,” said Marcia Ferranto, WTS President/CEO.
The Transportation YOU initiative that takes place at the local level across WTS International’s 50 chapters was spearheaded by USDOT in partnership with WTS in 2010 with the signing of a memorandum of understanding. The program is a source of scholarship, internship, and networking opportunities. It links young women with professionals in the field and inspires them to pursue STEM-related coursework and exposes them to career possibilities in the transportation industry not typically pursued by women.
The DOT has been unwaveringly determined to support President Obama’s call to action to get more students, particularly young women, on track to take the helm of the country’s infrastructure needs so that the U.S. can “Win the future” with a robust economy, thriving communities, and success of individuals. WTS was a natural fit for getting the program off the ground.
For more information about WTS International and Transportation YOU, contact Marcia Ferranto at 202-955-5085 or visit www.wtsinternational.org.