On Feb. 8th, the Kansas City Chapter of Conference of Minority Transportation Officials (COMTO) honored the legacy of Garrett A. Morgan and his contributions to the transportation industry by exposing some students from the Topeka, Kansas City, Kansas, and Kansas City, Missouri school districts to the work of transportation planners, engineers, architects and others. The Garrett A. Morgan Shadow Day Program was developed under the Clinton administration by Rodney E. Slater, the former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation. COMTO KC hosts the Garrett A. Morgan Shadow Day each year to encourage young people to pursue transportation-related careers and help grow and sustain a workforce to meet the technical demands of the 21st century.
Much of the seasoned transportation work force is retiring. The demand for both traditional and new skills is expanding. The nation’s need for technologically literate transportation workers continues to grow. We have an obligation to ensure that today’s students are aware of the tremendous opportunities in the field of transportation and that they are prepared to take advantage of those opportunities. Members of the COMTO Kansas City chapter developed a variety of activities for students experience during the shadow day:
RIDE KC Bus Simulator and Bus Garage Tour:
As part of the Shadow Day, 13 students visited the RIDE KC offices to learn about how bus drivers are trained to drive the region’s various bus routes. They also learn KCATA has one of only nine national bus garage’s that house their entire fleets of buses, para-transit, and other vehicles.
KC Streetcar Authority Tour:
The second leg of the field trip lead the group to the Kansas City Streetcar Authority Maintenance Facility where Streetcar staff gave them a tour of the facility and they were able to view maintenance staff inspect the streetcars. The students learned why a streetcar may be valuable to a central business district and how a Transportation Development District (TDD) is formed. The students were informed that an extension to the streetcar may be in the works.
Tour of Charles B. Wheeler Air Traffic Control Tower:
Students really enjoyed the view inside the Air Traffic Control Tower. They asked many questions such as, “How much would it cost to park my own airplane here?” Airport staff informed the students on what it takes to become an Air Traffic Controller and why it may be a viable career. Students were surprised to learn that many celebrities and sporting teams frequent this airport such as Former President Obama, Drake, and Kansas City Chiefs players.
Lunch and Engineering Summit at Burns and McDonnell:
Over 6 types of engineers filled our Engineering Panel (thanks again) ranging from civil engineers, to an Unmanned Aerial Specialist, chemical engineers, and bridge engineers. The firms represented were: HNTB, Burns and McDonnell, SE3, and Taliferro and Browne. COMTO KC Chapter President, Whitney Morgan, welcomed everyone for the summit and explained the purpose of the Garrett A. Morgan Shadow Day. Each engineer told their story of why they became an engineer, what type of engineer they are, and why it is such a viable career to consider. They also were very candid on how their journey as a person of color, woman, or both, has effected their career. The students asked many questions and were very engaged while the panel shared their stories.
The transportation industry can provide great career opportunities for young people, and the demand for both traditional and new skills is expanding. As many experienced members of the transportation workforce approach retirement, the need for skilled, technical workers will grow. Transportation-related industries offer career opportunities for young people in planning, engineering and other related fields. COMTO KC would like to truly thank all the help we received from HNTB, Burns and McDonnell, MoDOT, KDOT, KCSTI, SE3, Taliaferro and Browne, KS-NSTI, Bellewether Global, MARC, KCATA, Charles B. Wheeler Airport, KC Streetcar Authority, and Custom Engineering Inc.
The shadow day was also featured in Mid-America Regional Council’s Transportation Matters Blog.