BOLI-ODOT Highway Construction Workforce Development Program Promotes Diversity

Photo Courtesy of BOLI

The Highway Construction Workforce Development Program initiated jointly by the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) and Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) works to increase diversity within Oregon’s highway construction trades. The program increases opportunities for women, minorities, and other disadvantaged populations to enter into highway construction careers by providing supportive services to all apprentices entering into targeted trades who have a documented need. Supportive services include financial and social support including transportation assistance, child care subsidies, mentoring, and job readiness supplies (e.g. tools, protective equipment, and clothing). Additional emergency hardship funding (for rent) is also available.

In addition to supportive services, the program offers recruitment and retention services in the highway construction trades including:

This program is funded through ODOT using Federal Highway Administration funds. ODOT is statutorily required to spend one-half to one percent of federal surface highway funds received (up to $2,100,000) each biennium to increase diversity in the highway construction workforce and to prepare individuals interested in entering the highway construction workforce. ODOT partnered with BOLI to administer the program. While the principal partners for this program are ODOT and BOLI, services are contracted out to a variety of vendors, including:

This program was recently evaluated by Portland State University, using apprentice data maintained by BOLI and a phone survey of apprentices. The study found that the program, “improved completion rates for apprentices in eligible trades who received services.” Apprentices receiving supportive services from the program were found to be more likely than those not receiving supportive services to be working in construction after their apprenticeship program. Female apprentices who received program services had a completion rate of 61%–double the rate for women apprentices who did not receive services from the program. Additionally, 72.5% of apprentices receiving supportive services reported that ODOT-BOLI support allowed them to take a job that they otherwise would not have been able to take.

Photo Courtesy of BOLI

Currently ODOT and BOLI are working to integrate child care subsidies with the Oregon Department of Human Services’ Office of Self-Sufficiency Programs, which administers the state’s Employment Related Day Care (ERDC) program. This will allow subsidies to be available at higher income levels than the currently existing ERDC program.

In order to reduce discrimination and create a safe workplace environment for women and minorities in highway construction trades, the program is initiating two respectful workplace projects:

For more information about the ODOT-BOLI Highway Construction Workforce Development Program, visit:

To view a video that interviews some of the apprentices about their experiences with the program, visit: