Women in Asphalt

Women in Asphalt

According to the Associated General Contractors of America’s 2020 Construction Outlook Survey, 1 81 percent of construction firms report difficulty in filling salaried and hourly craft positions, and 65 percent of firms estimate that it will be as difficult or more difficult to hire over the next 12 months. Given that women comprise less than 10 percent of the general construction workforce, and, to be more granular, less than 7,000 workers in the asphalt industry, 2 more companies are starting to scout the female demographic to combat workforce shortages. It’s a challenge, given that the industry has historically been male-dominated and conveyed a masculine image.

As a creative way to attract quality talent and the next generation of professionals, Asphalt Testing Solutions & Engineering (ATS) participated earlier this year in the Women in Transportation Initiative (WITI), a program sponsored by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). An academic credit-bearing, multi-faceted internship and classroom experience for female students enrolled in degree-seeking programs, WITI connects young women with businesses that are recruited to be guest lecturers or offer interactive tours at their facilities. It’s literally a win-win for all involved.

The University of Florida Transportation Institute (UFTI) offered this program in partnership with Women of Asphalt and companies in the asphalt industry for the first time in the Spring 2020 semester. The first eight weeks of the 17-week Sustainable Asphalt Pavement Engineering course were planned by Amy Miller, National Director of the Asphalt Pavement Alliance and a founding member of the Women of Asphalt. She laid out the course topics – which included an introduction to the asphalt industry, liquid bitumen, asphalt production, asphalt construction, among others – and matched course material with industry experts who could serve as guest lecturers.

The first eight weeks were crucial because they are what count towards the WITI program so that students can receive U.S. DOT credentials and a certificate, with an opportunity to intern at the U.S. DOT. Previous WITI programs have been focused on all aspects of transportation. This was the first time the course focused entirely on the asphalt industry.

“The opportunity to inform and educate these students on the equipment used in the asphalt production and paving industry was an honor. This was a very diverse group of students; some of them have worked on projects and had a great understanding of the industry,” said Jim Holland, Wirtgen, who taught a WITI course on paving equipment. “Our company is committed to offering training that is relevant to both laborers and professionals who are either in or considering a career in the asphalt industry. This is a teaching opportunity that myself and our organization hope to be involved with for many years to come.”

“Working with industry partners is a key element to the success of this program,” added Carlos Villanueva, U.S. DOT’s Southeast Region Community Relations and Outreach Manager. “Students are able to engage with employees, see the jobs that are filled by women, and get a true handson experience beyond theory alone.”

 

“Women tend to be intimidated by professions that are predominately male. I think the WITI program is a great way to overcome that fear, clear up any misconceptions, and fill the gaps in our workforce.”

—Tanya Nash, P.E., ATS Pavement Materials Engineer

 

In February, at the ATS and Duval Asphalt facilities in Florida, Tanya Nash, P.E., ATS Pavement Materials Engineer, presented the week six portion of the curriculum to local WITI students. They arrived at the Duval Asphalt production site, where Nash presented the asphalt production segment of the curriculum during a Women of Asphalt-sponsored lunch. Following the lecture, Steve McReynolds, ATS Director of Operations, led a tour 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.”

Anticipating much success from the partnership with the University of Florida, the Southeast Region DOT plans to share their success of the University of Florida partnership with other U.S. 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 male. 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?”

Footnotes

1 https://www.agc.org/sites/default/files/Files/Communications/2020_Outlook_Survey_National.pdf

2 National Asphalt Pavement Association (2018). Women Working. Presented by Dr. Audrey Copeland at the World of Asphalt Show & Conference, March 7, 2018, Houston, Texas.

Article Source: www.asphaltpavement-digital.com