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High Growth Industry Profile

Industry Snapshots
  • The transportation industry is global in nature and its growth has been spurred by the increased adoption of new technologies that allow time-specific delivery and electronic tracking of cargo. (Hoover's Online)
  • Employment in transportation and material moving occupations is projected to grow by 1.1 million between 2004 and 2014. Two-fifths of new jobs should be for truck drivers and driver/sales workers. (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2006-07 Career Guide to Industries)
  • Transportation and material moving occupations, which include laborers and hand freight, stock and material movers, are projected to increase by more than 248,000 new jobs between 2004 and 2014. (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2006-07 Career Guide to Industries)
Workforce Issues

Image, Outreach, and Recruitment

  • The transportation industry is currently seeking to develop a pipeline of younger workers to help industry employers meet their workforce needs. Specifically, employers are looking to help high school, technical school and community college graduates successfully enter the transportation industry. In addition, industry employers are recruiting future workers through untapped labor pools, which include dislocated workers, transitioning military personnel, veterans and individuals with disabilities.

Retention and advancement

  • To address entry-level retention among workers in transportation, the industry seeks to develop competency models and career ladders for future workers to demonstrate the viability of jobs in the industry. The industry is also focused on management retention among experienced workers. Expanding access to training programs for incumbent workers is also a concern. To help workers gain the skills industry employers demand, the industry is developing effective partnerships between workforce investment boards and One-Stop Career Centers and developing training models and skill certifications to help close the skills gap.
Skill Sets

(Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)

  • Many jobs in truck transportation and warehousing require a high school education, although an increasing number of workers have at least some college education. While many states allow those who are 18 years old to drive trucks within state borders, the U.S. Department of Transportation establishes minimum qualifications for truck drivers engaged in interstate commerce. Federal motor carrier safety regulations require truck drivers to be at least 21 years old, have at least 20/40 vision, good hearing and the ability to read and speak English. They must also have good driving records. In addition, drivers must have a state commercial driver's license (CDL), for which they must pass a written examination and a skills test operating the type of vehicle they will be driving. Individual companies often have additional requirements applicants must meet. Many truck drivers enter the occupation by attending training schools for truck drivers.
  • The skills and experience needed by workers in air transportation differ by occupation. Some jobs may be entered directly from high school, while others require extensive specialized training. Most airline positions involve extensive customer service contact requiring strong interpersonal and communication skills. Mechanics and pilots require extensive specialized formal training. Most skills for many other air transportation occupations can be learned on the job or through company-sponsored training.
  • Railroads require that applicants for many positions have a minimum of a high school diploma or its equivalent. Physical stamina is required for many entry-level jobs. Employers require railroad transportation job applicants to pass a physical examination, drug and alcohol screening and a criminal background check. Many rail transportation employees work nights, weekends and holidays because trains operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Rail yard workers spend most of their time outdoors in varying weather. Entry-level conductors must generally be at least 21 years of age and are either trained by their employers or required to complete a formal conductor training program. Applicants for locomotive engineer jobs must be at least 21 years old. Employers almost always fill engineer positions with workers who have experience in other railroad-operating occupations.
  • Key occupations in the transit and ground passenger transportation sector include transit and intercity bus drivers, bus and truck mechanics and diesel engine specialists and first-line supervisors and managers of transportation and material-moving machine and vehicle operators. Bus drivers must be courteous and have strong customer service skills. In addition, federal regulations require drivers who operate commercial motor vehicles to hold a CDL from the state in which they live. Although many persons qualify for diesel service technician and mechanic jobs through years of on-the-job training, employers prefer to hire graduates of formal training programs. Many community colleges and trade and vocational schools offer programs in diesel repair. In addition to the hands-on aspects of the training, many institutions teach communication skills, customer service, basic understanding of physics and logical thought. The most significant source of training for first-line supervisors/managers of transportation and material moving machine and vehicle operators is work experience in a related occupation.
  • Within the scenic and sightseeing transportation and support activities sector, aircraft mechanics and service technicians and customer service representatives are two of the primary occupations. Most mechanics learn their job in one of about 200 trade schools certified by the FAA. About one-third of these schools award two- and four-year degrees in avionics, aviation technology, or aviation maintenance management. Aircraft mechanics must do careful and thorough work that requires a high degree of mechanical aptitude. Employers seek applicants who are self-motivated, hard-working, enthusiastic and able to diagnose and solve complex mechanical problems. A high school diploma or the equivalent is the most common educational requirement for customer service representatives. Basic computer knowledge and good interpersonal skills also are important qualities for people who wish to be successful in the field. Because customer service representatives constantly interact with the public, strong communication and problem-solving skills are a must.
  • Entry, training and educational requirements for most water transportation occupations are established and regulated by the U.S. Coast Guard. All officers and operators of commercially operated vessels must be licensed by the Coast Guard, which offers various kinds of licenses, depending on the position and type of vessel. Sailors and unlicensed engineers working on U.S. flagged deep-sea a nd Great Lakes vessels must hold a Coast Guard-issued document. A medical certificate of excellent health attesting to vision, color perception and general physical condition is required for higher level deckhands and unlicensed engineers. No special training or experience is needed to become a seaman or deckhand on vessels operating in harbors or on rivers or other waterways.
ETA in Action

In June 2003, ETA announced the High Growth Job Training Initiative to engage businesses with local education providers and the local/regional workforce investment system to find solutions that address changing talent development needs in various industries.

In October 2005, the Community-Based Job Training Grants were announced to improve the role of community colleges in providing affordable, flexible and accessible education for the nation's workforce.

ETA is investing more than $260 million in 26 different regions across the United States in support of the WIRED (Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development) Initiative. Through WIRED, local leaders design and implement strategic approaches to regional economic development and job growth. WIRED focuses on catalyzing the creation of high skill, high wage opportunities for American workers through an integrated approach to economic and talent development.

These initiatives reinforce ETA's commitment to transform the workforce system through engaging business, education, state and local governments and other federal agencies with the goal of creating a skilled workforce to meet the dynamic needs of today's economy.


ETA has invested $23,281,291 in the transportation industry. This includes four High Growth Job Training Initiative grants totaling $7,640,253 and eight Community-Based Job Training grants totaling $15,641,038. Leveraged resources from all of the grantees total $79,958,146.


For additional background information about the industry and details on the grants, information about employment and training opportunities and workforce development tools for employers, educators and workforce professionals, please visit:,, and