FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Christina Strong
Generation Z learns the county road business
Lansing, MI –Every year, Michigan’s county road agencies invest time, energy and capital into the next generation of road professionals who want to “learn the ropes” about the Michigan’s local road system – the fourth-largest local road network in the US.
One hub of training for emerging road professionals is the Iron County Road Commission (ICRC) in Michigan’s Western Upper Peninsula. ICRC has a 25-year-old internship program, and had 13 student interns last summer— all but one of them female students learning about local roadwork.
While Iron County is very rural with only one village and four cities, its 5,600 households are obviously very dependent on 633 miles of local roads. There isn’t a college in the county, yet ICRC has developed a remarkable college intern program dating back to the 1990s.
ICRC’s superintendent-manager, Doug Tomasoski, PE, himself benefitted from a road commission scholarship during his college days.
“I would certainly recommend other county road agencies implement internship programs,” said Tomasoski in the feature article “Bringing Gen Z into the County Road Business," in the latest issue of Crossroads, the quarterly magazine of the County Road Association of Michigan.
“Every county road agency is run a bit differently, but from our experience if they have the financial means and the resources, then they should consider it,” Tomasoski said.
Iron County Road Commission’s internships begin each May and run 16 weeks. Students can work a maximum of five summers performing such tasks as patching and crack sealing a road, operating different machinery and performing administrative tasks, all while absorbing the technical principles needed to solve community problems.
Twelve of ICRC’s 13 interns this past summer were young women, which stands out in a male-dominated industry. These women said knowing someone who enjoyed the work and avoiding “stereotypical jobs” like waitressing motivated them to apply for local road work.
Most of ICRC’s 2016 interns come from Michigan Technological University in Houghton County and Northern Technological University in Marquette; others come from colleges and universities in the Lower Peninsula such as Michigan State University.
Scholarships Important, too. Hands-on experience isn’t the only way Michigan’s 83 county road agencies touch the lives of the next generation. The Upper Peninsula Road Builders (UPRB) Association contributes $1,000 scholarships to fifth-year Michigan Technological University students; Tomasoski received one many years ago.
In the Lower Peninsula, the Northern Michigan Association of Road Commissions (NMARC), consisting of 33 county road commissions, has partnered with Ferris State University since 1975 to help students pay for college. Fifty scholarships have been awarded since its creation.
“The scholarship supports students majoring in heavy equipment, accounting, construction management, surveying and civil engineering,” said Joyce Randall, managing director of Mecosta County Road Commission (MCRC) and immediate past Secretary/ Treasurer of NMARC.
These kinds of active engagements with students help pay for college, teach them different ways to work and think, and inform them to career paths working on Michigan’s large local road system. County road agencies empower the youth and help leave future roads in good hands.
The 83 members of the County Road Association represent the unified credible and effective voice for a safe and efficient local road system in Michigan, collectively managing more than 73 percent of all roads in the state—more than 90,000 miles and 5,700 bridges. County road agencies also maintain the state’s highway system in 64 counties.