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Public Roads - Winter 2020

Winter 2020
Issue No:
Vol. 83 No. 4
Publication Number:
Table of Contents

Saluting 50 Years of Transportation Training

by Stan Woronick and Christine Kemker

FHWA's National Highway Institute Celebrates Its Golden Anniversary in 2020

In 1970, the Nation was at the height of Eisenhower's Interstate Era. Federal and State highway agencies worked to plan and build the interstate highway system, the largest civil works project ever constructed in the United States. At the same time, people across all industries looked for new ways to protect natural, social, and cultural environments. As the Nation's interstate routes expanded, the Federal Highway Administration recognized that maintaining and updating this system would require a contemporary, trained workforce, one able to implement new methods and technologies. More and larger projects, developing and adapting new innovations, and a growing workforce meant a need for training to meet the demands.

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For 50 years, the National Highway Institute has delivered innovative and expert transportation training. As the primary training and education branch of the Federal Highway Administration, NHI aims to provide transportation professionals with the knowledge they need to perform and advance their careers.

To rise to the challenge of providing new skills and staffing for the transportation industry, Congress authorized the creation of the National Highway Institute (NHI) as part of the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1970. As FHWA's training arm, NHI was tasked with the development and delivery of training for State and local highway organizations across the United States.

In the beginning, NHI was a lean organization with just a few employees who completed all course registrations, scheduling arrangements, and certificates by hand. With this limitation, the agency understandably offered only a small selection of courses. Today, NHI regularly collaborates with partners across the transportation industry, both nationally and internationally, to offer a catalog that has grown to include more than 400 courses in 18 broad categories, including more than 200 distance-learning courses that capitalize on the latest web technologies. With 205 web-based trainings, 20 web-conference trainings, and an ever-increasing number of blended courses (part online, part instructor led) on the books, NHI aims to train more transportation professionals, accessibly and affordably, in the fields they need most.

Even though the technology and teaching formats are relatively new, NHI's commitment to excellence in training is not. As FHWA's training and educational business unit, NHI has provided quality technical training to the Nation's broad network of transportation professionals for the past 50 years. And this year, as NHI celebrates its golden anniversary, it proudly continues to serve as the country's principal source of transportation-related course materials and training.


Collaboration and Innovation

NHI ensures the Nation's transportation professionals remain at the forefront of their chosen disciplines and helps to safeguard the country's infrastructure as a national asset. NHI develops its technical training in collaboration with FHWA program offices, FHWA's Resource Center, State departments of transportation, local agencies, and industry partners, which encourages nationwide application of state-of-the-practice techniques.

NHI's portfolio of training products covers a wide variety of transportation-related program areas ranging from asset management and structures to intelligent transportation systems and highway safety. The instructor-led and web-conference sessions provide a direct line of communication with experienced practitioners considered by their peers to be experts in their respective fields.

NHI strives to be the authoritative source for transportation training by offering relevant and organized curricula, providing outstanding customer service, and delivering training formats that support various learning needs and workforce trends. The organization is dedicated to improving the performance of the transportation industry by providing effective and innovative instruction, both in the classroom and online.

To ensure that current training needs are being met, NHI is conducting a 3-year initiative to update the entire 418-course catalog. The goal of this undertaking, as well as that of the new web-based courses, is to make NHI more affordable and accessible to professionals across the industry.

NHI's new director, Michael Davies, is the push behind this effort. "We recognize the ever-changing landscape of the transportation industry and its workforce development needs," says Davies. quot;That's why we are laser-focused and committed to providing a high-quality learning experience through the most innovative training solutions available."

Offering Excellence

NHI uses the latest adult learning principles to keep learners engaged and enthusiastic about applying what they learn as soon as they return to work. NHI uses an iterative course development process, through which accredited instructional designers and subject matter experts work closely to determine training needs, design and develop a solution, and deliver a high-quality product based on the customers' unique objectives, timelines, and budget. That means that each course is not a cookie-cutter lecture, but instead uses local examples and tailored content to meet the specific challenges faced by attendees.

The organization pursues strategic partnerships that enhance and attest to the quality of its training. These partnerships include university transportation centers, State DOTs, and FHWA's Resource Center. Collaboration with these partners has helped NHI to provide better training to more customers.

Beyond offering state-of-the-art and state-of-the-practice training, NHI is accredited by the International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET) as an authorized provider of continuing education units (CEUs). As an authorized provider, NHI can offer CEUs for its courses that qualify under the American National Standards Institute/IACET 1-2007 Standard. Accredited training may be used by highway industry professionals to maintain State-issued professional engineer licenses or other designations. For its planning and freight series courses, NHI is also an approved provider of the American Institute of Certified Planners certification maintenance credits.

"Accreditation gives our courses validity as high-quality trainings," says Carolyn Eberhard, an NHI instructor liaison and historian.

In addition to the IACET accreditation, several of NHI's courses meet Federal and State requirements as approved training for industry certifications. Maintaining Federal and State approval for many of NHI's courses means enforcing rigorous standards and providing up-to-date trainings on transportation policies, technologies, and best practices. These efforts ensure added value, above and beyond CEUs, for individuals who take these courses.

NHI uses innovative training delivery methods that increase accessibility to learning without sacrificing the quality or comprehensiveness of the content. This includes staying up-to-date on adult learning theory and converting many introductory courses into accessible, user-oriented formats. NHI implements blended learning strategies to encourage the most efficient expenditures of participant and instructor time.

"Blended courses address participants' needs to learn at their own pace and when it's convenient to them," says Melonie Barrington, an NHI training program manager.

FHWA's Administrator Francis C. Turner (left) with Emmett H. Karrer, the first director of NHI, in September 1971.

This dedication to excellence has results. In the last decade, NHI has significantly increased its reach in the transportation industry, training 173 percent more participants in 2018 than in 2008 thanks to the incorporation of new training delivery formats, such as web-based training (first offered in 2003) and blended courses (first course offered in 2006). In the last 5 years alone, NHI has trained more than 200,000 personnel from Federal agencies, State DOTs, local public agencies, international industry organizations, and institutes of higher learning.

FHWA's Executive Director, Thomas Everett (left), poses with NHI's newest director, Michael Davies, who took the position in January 2019. While proud of the last 50 years, Davies is looking ahead to NHI's future through innovative training and collaborative efforts.

Developers continually update courses as needed to reflect the latest guidance, methods, and knowledge, and to incorporate feedback received from participants. As an organization dedicated to learners, NHI provides access to highly skilled subject matter experts from government and industry, incorporates hands-on learning opportunities and practical exercises that make real-world application a priority, and offers opportunities to collaborate, solve problems, and share successful practices with industry peers across the United States.

The vision for the future of NHI continues a longstanding history of forward-thinking ideas. In observation of NHI's 50th anniversary, the focus this year revolves around one central theme: Moving forward, giving back.

Moving Forward

To celebrate its momentous anniversary, NHI plans to rebrand, increase visibility, and focus on innovation.

Rebranding. NHI has developed a new style guide and introduced a redesigned logo, an all-new color scheme, and a revamped look and feel with modernized fonts and icons.

Visibility. NHI plans to participate in more key industry events and develop a stronger digital and social media presence. The kickoff for NHI's 50th year takes place at the Transportation Research Board's 99th Annual Meeting, held January 12–16, 2020, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, in Washington, D.C

Innovation. NHI is exploring new technologies and finding innovative ways to communicate to broader audiences by modernizing its video library and training curriculum and implementing more opportunities to use state-of-the-art virtual reality technology. NHI currently offers three computer-based trainings that use virtual inspections, including the popular Safety Inspection of In-Service Bridges (course 130055), which was hosted 35 times in 2018.

Giving Back

2020 offers a golden opportunity to give back to the transportation community and further support industry professionals.

Financial Support. To strengthen its partnerships with State and Federal agencies, NHI will provide resources to the transportation workforce throughout 2020. This will include discounted courses across the board and curated sessions for industry professionals hosted at NHI's training facilities just outside of Washington, DC. NHI is also promoting its 50th anniversary by offering select NHI-sponsored "Golden Anniversary Courses" to State DOTs, local agencies, Tribal governments, and other FHWA partners.

Website Chat Box. To make it easier for online users to get access to the answers they are looking for, NHI is developing a chat box interface for its website. The feature will assist customers in finding information, offer help with hosting a session, and answer questions about NHI courses in real time.

Collaboration. NHI has been working to build new and better partnerships internally and externally to create better opportunities for our customers. These collaborations include the Resource Center's "Call For Service" (an initiative designed to identify and meet the technical and training needs of FHWA's division partners), a joint training facility with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, and a new agreement with the Office of Innovative Program Delivery to offer all NHI web-based training at no cost to local agencies and Tribal governments.

Fiscal Year 2018 Course Highlights

Course with the Most Sessions

Bridge Inspection Refresher Training (FHWA-NHI-130053)

Most Popular Web-Based Training

FHWA Planning and Research Grants: The Uniform Guidance (2 CFR Part 200) – Part 2 (FHWA-NHI-151059)

Web-Conference Training with the Most Sessions

Transportation Performance Management for Congestion including Freight (FHWA-NHI-138010) (this course has been replaced by a web-based version without the live conference session: FHWA-NHI-138019)

Highest Rated Course

Basic Relocation under the Uniform Act

NHI uses virtual inspections in three courses, such as this one of a steel truss bridge from the updated Safety Inspection of In-Service Bridges course. NHI hopes to incorporate more virtual reality technology into its courses in the coming years.

"We want to advance the industry and better support the many transportation professionals we serve," says NHI Director Davies. "Throughout our 50th anniversary and beyond, NHI is committed to reinvesting in their technical training needs, shoring up and strengthening the lines of communication, and uncovering new ways to better serve the transportation community."



"For the last 50 years, FHWA's National Highway Institute has been training and building the transportation workforce of the future. While our teaching methods may look different today and certainly will be different in the future, our goal for the next 50 years remains: to continue to deliver high-quality, leading-edge training for the transportation industry."

Amy Lucero, FHWA Chief Technical Services Officer

Stan Woronick is the training delivery and customer service manager at NHI. Previously, he worked at the FHWA Missouri Division as an administrative officer and finance specialist. He holds a bachelor of science in workforce development from Southern Illinois University–Carbondale and a master's degree in human resource development from Webster University.

Christine Kemker is a contracted marketing specialist for NHI.

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