JEFFERSON CITY - The Missouri Department of Transportation has created a new division to enhance efforts to involve minority-owned, women-owned and disadvantaged businesses in state construction projects. The new division - External Civil Rights - oversees the department's affirmative action, equal opportunity and nondiscrimination programs, which were previously housed within another MoDOT division. The move will expand these important outreach and partnership programs.
"Creating this new division allows us to place an even greater emphasis on increasing the number of minority, female, and economically disadvantaged individuals working on state transportation projects," said Lester Woods, Jr., the division's director. "This will help us deliver better results when it comes to ensuring a diverse work force on our projects."
One of the division's goals is to build on the progress made in developing pre-apprentice and on-the-job training programs for socially and economically disadvantaged individuals on two of MoDOT's largest projects: the I-64 reconstruction in St. Louis and the reconstruction of almost five miles of Interstate 29/35 and construction of a new Missouri River bridge near downtown Kansas City, Mo. These programs are helping individuals acquire trades that will provide long-term career opportunities.
Over the last two years, more than 70 on-the-job trainees have worked on I-64 and five of them have achieved journeyman status, with many more eligible by next year. At 19 percent, the total work force diversity on the I-64 project is exceeding the federal minority goal of 14.7 percent.
In its thirteenth month of construction, Kansas City's kcICON project is on the path to achieving its overall project diversity goal of 12.7 percent. There are 42 on-the-job trainees working now - three in professional services and 39 in construction. More trainees will be added as construction continues to ramp up for the summer.
"We have committed up to $1.25 million to developing a work force that better reflects the diverse makeup of our community," said kcICON Project Director Brian Kidwell. "We want all of our on-the-job trainees to be successful on this project and acquire the training and skills necessary to sustain long-term careers in heavy highway construction."
A sister division, MoDOT's Equal Opportunity and Diversity Division, works to recruit and retain women and minorities as part of the agency's workforce. David Williams was recently named the acting director of that division.
For more information on the External Civil Rights Division, visit www.modot.org/ecr.
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Editor's note: A photo of External Civil Rights Division Director Lester Woods can be found at www.modot.org/newsroom.