Front Range Community College is earning national attention for a first-of-its-kind associate’s degree created in partnership with the Colorado Department of Transportation.

The new, two-year degree in highway maintenance management captures all of the training that public works and transportation employees receive and translates it into college credit, said program director Susan Baillargeon.

Now in its first semester, the program already has 61 students enrolled, Baillargeon said. She was hoping for at least 10.

The program is online, which means students are earning degrees from across Colorado and across the country, including Maryland, Texas and Washington. Students are the workers driving snowplows, fixing highways and doing everything needed to keep roads safe. Some students are taking the class to see if they can start a similar program for their own states and communities, Baillargeon said.

“With this program we are really trying to redefine the future of transportation professionalism in this country,” she said.

The program was born when CDOT and industry leaders realized how difficult it was to find people within their agencies to promote into management positions.

“They came up with the idea that they should capture industry training as college credit,” she said.

Now training in highway safety, emergency management and leadership can be translated into a degree that will bolster an employee’s resume.

Students still have to put pencil to paper to get course credit, Baillargeon said, either through a portfolio showing they met the learning requirements of the class or by taking a challenge exam.

Rob McArthur, a heavy equipment operator in Douglas County, serves on an advisory committee for the program and was its first student. He’s worn many hats in municipal leadership over his 35-year career, but got back into road maintenance because he was tired of politics.

Now he runs motor graders, snowplows and anything else needed to take care of the rural roads near Deckers.

“There’s going to come a day when I’m probably not going to want to pull myself up into a piece of equipment anymore,” McArthur said. “I’ll probably have to go back inside and run something, and this program ensures that my name can go back in the hat pretty easily.”

Before this program, McArthur said, there was no succession plan in place for the public works industry in Colorado — nothing that gave employees a career path.

Now industry workers can show they have the training and credentials to take on increasing levels of responsibility and leadership in their organizations.

McArthur said he anticipates the program will soon become a preference for public works jobs and eventually a prerequisite.

“I am 55 years old, and if an old gummer like me can do it, no one else really has an excuse to procrastinate,” he said.

Source link