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An Example from Construction Safety: Professional Certifications as Potential Drivers of Degree Program Enhancements

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

College Industry Partnerships Division Technical Session 2

Tagged Division

College Industry Partnerships

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Paper Authors


Susan Gallagher Montana State University

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Susan Gallagher is the Education and Workforce Program Manager at the Western Transportation Institute (WTI), a transportation research center within Montana State University’s College of Engineering. Gallagher’s professional roles include promoting student research involvement, experiential learning opportunities, and professional development and networking activities; enhancing transportation curricula; overseeing workforce development and continuing education initiatives for the Center; grant writing, program development and management; and conducting outreach to K-12 students. She additionally manages the West Region Transportation Workforce Center (WRTWC), a resource center serving a ten-state regional network of transportation organizations, workforce advocates, and educational institutions to communicate best practices, catalyze new strategic partnerships, and leverage resources to enhance the transportation workforce at all levels. In that capacity, she also serves as the Associate Director for the National Transportation Safety Career Pathways Initiative, part of a national consortium supported by the Federal Highway Administration to develop career pathways for critical occupations in nationally significant transportation discipline areas.

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Natalie Marie Villwock-Witte P.E. Western Transportation Institute Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Natalie Villwock-Witte is an Assistant Research Professor/Research Engineer at the Western Transportation Institute (WTI) at Montana State University (MSU). She has more than thirteen years of experience from both the practitioner and research side of transportation engineering. In addition, Natalie is a registered engineer in the State of New Mexico. Natalie has taught a short-term study abroad course through MSU, teaches an introduction to engineering course at the Central New Mexico Community College, and has taught an introduction to transportation engineering course at the University of New Mexico. Natalie is currently working with the City of Lebanon, Missouri to evaluate the feasibility of public transportation for their community, with the Deep East Texas Council of Governments to pilot a travel voucher system, and with the Maine, Minnesota, and New Hampshire Departments of Transportation to identify characteristics of communities with less than 10,000 people who have successfully implemented bicycle and pedestrian facilities.

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The American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) recently launched a “Safety Certification for Transportation Project Professionals” (SCTPP) program that targets a wide range of road construction occupations to include engineers as well as construction managers and supervisors. The certification development process documented industry demand for safety-specific competencies. The objective of this paper is to determine to what extent the industry-driven safety competencies identified in the SCTPP certification development process are currently being covered at the degree level in construction engineering, construction engineering technology, construction management, and civil engineering programs. This paper documents results of a survey of civil engineering and construction degree programs.

Analysis of survey responses from 110 institutions of higher education across the United States indicates that construction safety content is typically embedded in general coursework and/or offered in a separate course. Fifty-eight percent of responding institutions offer full courses devoted to construction safety. Safety content focuses primarily on workplace safety standards and enforcement (e.g. OSHA), followed by recognizing project site hazards and preventing personal injury. The vast majority of responding programs reported having at least some course content devoted to these topics. Survey responses on what construction engineering and management students would be expected to know upon graduation reflect this emphasis. Respondents expected most or all graduates to be able to: identify and assess safety risks (88%); communicate the importance of safety to a broader audience (80%); identify and implement regulatory safety requirements (71%); develop a safety plan (66%); implement a safety plan (63%); and assess the effectiveness of safety measures (59%). These skillsets map back to competencies outlined in the ARTBA certification exam blueprint and reveal that some topics gain more emphasis at the degree level than others.

The authors utilize survey results to develop recommendations on how professional certifications in general can be used by education providers as “industry benchmarks” to drive curriculum development. In addition, safety certifications may provide a catalyst for expanding opportunities for experiential learning and other industry-education partnerships that ensure students are gaining the full range of competencies that reflect industry demand.

Gallagher, S., & Villwock-Witte, N. M. (2018, June), An Example from Construction Safety: Professional Certifications as Potential Drivers of Degree Program Enhancements Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--29784

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