Emerging Technology Skill Gaps at Transportation Could Mean Business Opportunity
Published: February 17, 2021
The USDOT is seriously lacking employees with skills related to automated technology
- The workforce at the U.S. Department of Transportation lacks critical skills needed to oversee the safe deployment of smart transportation technologies.
- The DOT currently does not have a training program in place to close the identified skill gaps.
- DOT personnel lack skills in systems engineering, cyber security, and data analysis.
- Contractor support could be required to close gaps that training the workforce cannot.
As the federal agency charged with overseeing the safety of transportation systems and infrastructure, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is at the center of research, development, and rule making surrounding smart technologies and automation. As such, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) asked the DOT to investigate its oversight of emerging automation technologies in order to clarify the department’s ability to adequately evaluate the safety of those solutions. What DOT officials found after conducting their evaluation is that skill gaps are keeping the department from adequately fulfilling its mission. This is a situation that often opens the door for contractor support as departments like the DOT turn to industry partners for the skills and expertise that are needed.
Specifically, the GAO asked the DOT to investigate the following aspects of its oversight mission:
Does the department’s workforce have the skills required to oversee the safety of automated technologies?
What is the extent to which the DOT has identified the skills it needs to oversee the safety of automated technologies and has it assessed whether its workforce has those skills?
What is the extent to which DOT has developed strategies to address any gaps in skills needed to oversee the safety of automated technologies?
In answer to these questions the GAO concluded the following.
First, the DOT’s Human Resources Management has identified most of the skills the department needs to oversee the safe deployment of automated technologies. It has not, however, fully assessed whether its workforce has these skills.
Second, the DOT has identified many of the skills cited by stakeholders as important for overseeing automated technologies. Yet the DOT did not survey staff or assess skill gaps in data analysis or cybersecurity positions, meaning it lacks the information needed to identify skill gaps and ensure the relevant staff are prepared to oversee the safe deployment of these technologies.
Third, the DOT has developed strategies to address some, but not all of the gaps in skills it needs to oversee automated technologies.
The skills most often cited as requirements for DOT personnel include regulatory, engineering, and data analysis expertise, as well as experience in cyber security. The DOT, noted the GAO, still has no training program in place to address these skill gaps.
While it is unlikely that industry partners would be asked to take on regulatory responsibilities, it is quite possible that the DOT will need contractor support to train its personnel in the skills they are currently lacking. The DOT particularly needs systems engineering expertise for replacing mechanical systems with computerized systems. Similarly, data analysis skills are needed to assess system safety and cyber security expertise is required for Internet of Things and 5G networks. These are all areas where industry partners can provide significant support.
Summing up, it is prudent for companies seeking work at the DOT to cite the skill gaps outlined by the GAO in their discussions with DOT program personnel. Companies that do this could learn in advance if there is a requirement coming down the line.