News | METRANS 20th Anniversary Milestone: SWTWC Research Foregrounds Transportation Workforce Development

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In an effort to prioritize transportation workforce development research, METRANS Associate Director Thomas O’Brien led an effort to secure a Federal Highway Administration grant to launch and operate the Southwest Transportation Workforce Center (SWTWC). Housed at CSULB’s Center for International Trade and Transportation (CITT), the center covers an eight-state region including California, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, Oklahoma and Texas.

“SWTWC’s key objectives are to facilitate partnerships between federal, state, regional and local departments of transportation and education, industry and other public and private stakeholders involved in transportation planning, operations and education,” O’Brien said. “With the initial $1 million in FHWA grant funding, we have successfully launched and established the center over the last four years.”

Most recently, SWTWC worked with its regional NNTW partners to develop and lead a national career pathway demonstration program, National Transportation Career Pathway Initiative, as a result of being awarded a $1.25 million Federal Highway Administration grant. Under the grant, SWTWC launched a 2018 pilot career pathway demonstration program focused on transportation planning career pathways. This pilot program will inform the development of subsequent career pathway demonstrations that address critical transportation occupations in planning, engineering, safety, operations, and environment.

“The need for transportation workforce research is incumbent for all transportation industry stakeholders. To guide the workforce through modern changes, thought leaders in transportation and education must develop innovative ways to bridge the gap between the job seeker’s skills and the skills that employers need,” SWTWC Associate Director Tyler Reeb said.

SWTWC research efforts have acknowledged the workforce needs of the transportation industry by performing a two-phase labor market analysis, which has identified workforce and training needs for various sectors within the industry. In response to these research outcomes, SWTWC developed informative and useful resources, creating knowledge exchanges between students, educators, researchers, and industry professionals.

The center’s online resource center provides a compendium that provides users with various education and training programs related to sectors of the transportation industry that they are a part of. Additionally, SWTWC’s website also hosts an interactive Story Map that serves as a visual tool that identifies the top critical occupations within the southwest region. This has become an essential tool for creating networking opportunities for SWTWC members and partner stakeholders.

SWTWC has also partnered with various industry and research stakeholders to develop and host presentations at the yearly Transportation Research Board conference in Washington D.C. In 2016, Dr. O’Brien presented SWTWC research in a panel called, “Building a National Network for the Transportation Workforce.” This panel presentation and discussion provided an overview of a three phase research methodology to develop each center’s Jobs Needs and Priorities Report. At the summit, “Faster, Smarter, Cleaner, Greener: Developing the Transportation Workforce of the Future,” SWTWC researchers presented new developments in the transportation sector and what they mean for workforce development.

Prior to the establishment of SWTWC, METRANS has contributed to partnerships with educational institutions to create educational opportunities and programs for future transportation professionals that are presently thriving:

GLS Online - The Global Logistics Specialist (GLS) program is a comprehensive education experience for professionals working in the supply chain and logistics side of the business. The program is extensively taught by industry and academic professionals with keen focus on freight and logistics. Due to the popularity of the program, GLS now has an online platform, which garners an international audience. Some of the GLS graduates have credited the program to have given them deep insights into each process of the supply chain. The rich and diverse class enhances the skill levels of all people enrolled in the course.   

MSSCM - The Master of Science in Supply Chain Management is an advanced graduate degree which emerged from a collaboration between the economics and management schools at CSULB. The MSSCM is designed for people capable of addressing socioeconomic issues surrounding freight movement, inventory management, logistics and global supply chain strategy. The class consists of a diverse set of professionals who are international, which adds to enhanced discussions and project outcomes. The highlight of the program is a semester long capstone project which allows students apply knowledge gathered through the program into real world data practice. Past alums from this program have experienced considerable career growth and access to industry leaders.          

In the years to come, SWTWC will continue to provide valuable research in order to enhance and further develop the incoming professionals of transportation workforce. METRANS’ continued commitment and partnership with the center has been critical in achieving these distinguished accomplishments.

To read more about NNTW and SWTWC, visit and