ACHD employees gain knowledge, hands-on training with the LHTAC Road Scholar and Road Master programs

Since 2012, employees of the Ada County Highway District have participated in the Local Highway Technical Assistance Council (LHTAC) Road Scholar and Road Master Programs. Since that time, the program has graduated 104 Road Scholars and 82 Road Masters from the highway district.

The program is designed to provide students with a deeper understanding and knowledge about the work they are already doing on a day-to-day basis.

James Hutchison, ACHD Drainage Crew Chief, was the first ACHD graduate of the program, and says the program provided hands-on opportunities to solve problems they see regularly out in the field.

“The courses helped me understand more about all aspects of road maintenance, road quality and build, drainage, traffic control, how speed limits are decided, and more,” said Hutchison. “Each time I would complete a course, I would identify issues in the roadway, figure out what is causing the issue, then brainstorm how to fix it. Completing coursework with my team members also helped create dialog about what were we’re seeing on a day to day basis.”

Participants begin by taking courses through the Road Scholar Program. They must take seven core classes consisting of First Aid, CPR, Basic Math, Roadway Materials, Pavement Maintenance and Preservation, Effective Communication Skills, and ATSSA Flagger Certification. Students may then select four electives from a large selection of offered classes ranging from Basic Surveying to Contract Administration to Road Safety.

Once the Road Scholar completes these courses with at least 80 percent on competency tests, they have achieved the requirements to reach Road Scholar status. They can choose to move on to the Road Master Program if they so desire, but they do not have to. Students can also work on achieving Road Scholar and Road Master requirements simultaneously, but they cannot achieve Road Master status until they have become a Road Scholar.

The Road Master curriculum consists of four core classes:  ATSSA Traffic Control Technician (TCT), Roadway Drainage, Environmental BMPs, and Speed Limits & Speed Zones. To complete the Road Master designation, participants must select an additional five electives and complete all competency tests with an 80 percent satisfaction rate.

Participants are given four years to complete each program. Credit may be given for some outside courses (such as those offered through Boise State) in areas like welding, defensive driving, and highway and street standards. ACHD Lab Coordinator Jessica Towell also teaches classes in Concrete, Asphalt, and Aggregate Testing which provide Western Alliance for Quality Transportation certifications, which can also be applied toward Road Scholar and Road Master requirements.

ACHD employees not interested in completing the full Road Scholar curriculum can take specific classes that pertain to a specific subject matter without completing the entire program.

Graduates of the programs receive statewide recognition, a certificate of completion, and an achievement award. ACHD graduates also receive acknowledgement of their accomplishment by the ACHD Commission during a regularly-scheduled Commission meeting.

“I am so impressed by the hard work and dedication of our team members here at ACHD,” said ACHD Commission President Mary May. “Their commitment to excellence is further highlighted by their participation in the Road Master and Road Scholar programs. It is so rewarding when the Commission has the opportunity to recognize the graduates of both of these programs for a job well done.”

In just the last few years, ACHD has seen a large increase in the number of employees participating, and ACHD employees complete between 150-200 classes each LHTAC session. Sessions begin each spring and fall.

“Any knowledge gained from further education is valuable,” Hutchison says. “As a supervisor, completing this coursework shows a person’s commitment and desire to increase their knowledge–both traits I look for in a team member.”

LHTAC is working on developing an additional program, the LHTAC Leadership Development Program, which is expected to be similar to the Road Scholar and Road Master Programs.