A state that has 6.4 million people has trained more women and minorities for highway construction jobs than a state with more than three times its population. When it comes to training for highway construction jobs, Indiana had twice as many women and minorities in apprentice programs as did New York between 2008 and 2010.
According to a new report (pdf), most states are failing to fully utilize a federally-mandated program known as On-the-Job Training -- or OJT. Illinois and Indiana, the report said, had the best record of boosting women and minority participation in the programs.
OJT's are run out of state DOT's, and are designed to train women and minorities for federal highway construction jobs.
Populous states like California and New York fared particularly badly. In terms of sheet numbers, Indiana had 1,573 OJT apprentices from 2008 to 2010, whereas New York had 778 over the same time period.
The numbers are from a report by the Transportation Equity Network, a civil rights advocacy group. TEN said its report, which is drawn from employment statistics state DOTs report to the federal government, is the first-ever compilation of data from all 50 states on their use of on-the-job-training and apprenticeship programs.
"[It's] a tremendous proram that's been under the wire," said Laura Barrett, executive director of the Transportation Equity Network (TEN).
But, Barrett said, "most states are doing a poor job" of fully utilizing them.
And as stark as the overall numbers are -- New Jersey had a total of nine people enrolled in its state OJT program in 2010 -- when you drill down deeper, the imbalance grows. "Women...are not doing well in terms of being moved into the construction trades," said Barrett. Only Maine and North Dakota's OJT programs have more than 50% women, and some states -- like Idaho and Utah -- have only 8%.
As President Obama touts his American Jobs Act, with its $27 billion for rebuilding roads and bridges, TEN and its supporters say they want to make sure some of those construction jobs go to unemployed people who really need them.
"Look: we’ve got a transportation infrastructure that needs repairs, we've got a workforce that need jobs," said Katherine McFate, executive director of government watchdog group OMB Watch. "You put these two things together and this program shows that with good public investments, you can meet both of those needs and also provide new opportunities for women and minorities."