Workforce Initiative Now (WIN), pioneered by Denver’s Regional Transportation District, has been awarded nearly $700,000 in Federal Transit Administration Ladders of Opportunity funding to strengthen efforts for training Coloradans for long-term careers in the transportation industry.

RTD is among 17 public agencies awarded a combined $9.5 million in FTA grant funding to advance workforce development initiatives to train, employ and support workers seeking jobs on large transportation infrastructure projects and in maintenance and operations after they are completed.

WIN will use the grant, part of the FTA’s 2015 Innovative Public Transportation Workforce Development Program, to build on existing strategies to recruit participants from underserved communities and implement a mentorship initiative for other public transportation agencies interested in learning from RTD’s experience.

The FTA administers the grant program through its Ladders of Opportunity initiative, which funds significant regional or national public transportation workforce development projects.

“We are proud WIN has set a national standard and continues to garner the support of federal transportation officials who see the need for greater workforce development in our industry,” said David Genova, interim general manager and CEO of RTD.

As part of the competitive Ladders of Opportunity grant application process, WIN submitted a proposal titled “Building the Path, WIN 2.0,” which aims to expand the program’s training and career pathways for current, prospective and future participants.

The proposal also provides for the development of resources and practical tools for other public transportation agencies interested in establishing similar programs.

Since its 2011 inception, WIN has recruited, trained and placed more than 300 workers from underserved communities on FasTracks transit expansion and transit-oriented communities (TOC) projects across the Denver metro area.

As WIN moves forward, it will focus on training workers who can help maintain RTD’s bus and rail services and the agency’s general operations.

Once accepted into the workforce development program, WIN participants receive career guidance, planning, training, job placement and other support services.

Employer services include recruitment, prescreening, customized training, community outreach and a higher employee retention rate attributed to ongoing career coaching and on-the-job training.

In learning of the new FTA grant, WIN Manager Martell Dyles attributed the program’s success to its strategy to capitalize on RTD’s investments in public transportation infrastructure and WIN’s collaboration with a network of 58 community, higher education and business partners.

WIN’s employer and training network includes founding partners the Community College of Denver, the Urban League of Metro Denver and Denver Transit Partners, RTD’s concessionaire on the Eagle P3 Project, which is building out three commuter rail lines under the FasTracks program.

“We are providing high-quality employment opportunities to people in the Denver metro area as we continue to build out and maintain our transit corridors,” Dyles said. “We’ll use these grant funds to implement WIN 2.0, which will focus on strengthening our partnerships to forge even deeper career pathways for participants and to establish peer-to-peer opportunities.”

Dyles said the FTA selected WIN for its grant proposal because it fulfills five best practices highlighted by President Obama’s August 2014 “Job Driven Checklist.”

Those best practices include engaging employers in workforce development, measuring employment and earning outcomes to drive program improvement, developing career pathways, building regional partnerships, and ensuring that program participants can succeed in the labor market through increased access to training, career navigation and support services.