New Course Orients Federal Lands Employees And Customers
The National Highway Institute (NHI)
Since the passage of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) in 1998, the program for the Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA) Office of Federal Lands Highway (FLH) has nearly doubled and may continue to grow pending reauthorization of Federal transportation legislation. With this expansion, FLH is hiring more midcareer professionals who have excellent technical skills but often know little about how FLH operates. To meet the increasing demand for technical assistance and ensure that all new hires understand the division's processes, the National Highway Institute, with help from FLH and FHWA's Office of Professional Development, developed a 3-day course to introduce newly hired employees and others to FLH operations and regulations. NHI held a pilot version of the course in Denver, CO, in March 2004.
The goal of Federal Lands 101 (#310108A) is to explore how FLH functions, including how it administers programs, delivers projects, develops and transfers technology, and provides external training. According to Don Tuggle, director of program administration for FHWA's Eastern Federal Lands Highway Division, course participants are exposed to the full range of project management and procurement processes used at FLH, including design-build contracting and cost-plus-time bidding-two innovative techniques that reduce construction time by combining project responsibilities.
Several aspects of FLH distinguish the division from other offices within FHWA. Its employees, for example, often perform hands-on design and construction work and operate through an FLH contracting office, whereas most FHWA offices focus on project oversight and do not perform these other functions. In addition, the large size of FLH's three branch offices, each comprising 200 or more employees versus only 20 to 50 in FHWA's Federal-aid division offices, requires that the FLH offices operate under a more complex organizational structure. "The FLH structure really constitutes a separate business line within FHWA," Tuggle says.
Prior to taking the course, participants typically have little experience in evaluating environmental impacts, financing transportation projects, or otherwise understanding "the things you don't learn in engineering school," Tuggle says. Although most new employees usually have considerable engineering experience, many need to learn more about transportation policy and procedures and other Federal regulations before administering projects.
Upon completing the course, participants will be able to identify the role and authority of FLH within FHWA and describe the distinctive characteristics of the division's customers and programs. They also will develop a greater understanding of the processes and resources that the office uses to deliver projects and conduct business and how FLH interacts with the Federal-aid division offices in each State.
The course will benefit employees in all positions and grades within FLH, workers within FHWA's Federal-aid offices-particularly new hires and employees from other Federal offices that are affected by FLH work, such as the U.S. Department of the Interior's Bureau of Land Management. Most important, the course orients direct hires or employees who join FLH in a midlevel position, who need to learn the culture and procedures of the office quickly to be effective.
"FLH has a large percentage of direct hires," says Tuggle. "We see a critical need to get these new employees educated on the organization as quickly as possible to maximize their individual effectiveness in addressing our organizational goals and workload. Our partner agencies also have expressed the desire to understand more about our organization, so we hope that Federal Lands 101 can help us address both of these needs."
For more information, visit NHI's Web site at http://www.nhi.fhwa.dot.gov/home.aspx or contact Don Tuggle at 703-404-6276 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about transportation-related courses available from NHI, consult the course catalog at www.nhi.fhwa.dot.gov or contact NHI at 4600 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 800, Arlington, VA 22203; 703-235-0500 (phone); or 703-235-0593 (fax). For scheduling, contact Danielle Mathis-Lee at 703-235-0528 or email@example.com.