New recruiting tool for teens

Michele Regenold
Go! Editor
Center for Transportation Research and Education
Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa

The important work of public works often goes unnoticed by the average citizen—including young people thinking about future careers. A new, online magazine for 14-20-year-olds may change that by making public works careers—specifically transportation-related jobs—more noticeable.

Go! (www.go-explore-trans.org/) will open teens' eyes to the variety of careers in transportation. This free, entertaining magazine is published by Iowa State University's Center for Transportation Research and Education with the help of a variety of sponsors, including the Iowa Chapter of APWA.

What you'll find in Go!
Go! includes upbeat feature articles and five or six departments per issue like School Spotlight, Historically Speaking, Green Scene, Book Stop, Train Your Brain, and Mystery Photo.

High school student Megan Kroeger (standing) gives college student Lisa Diercksen tips on handling the Iowa DOT's snowplow simulator. (See the January-February issue for the article "Learning to drive a snowplow.")

Each issue focuses on a different theme such as winter work, shipping, and design/engineering. The January/February 2007 issue, for example, includes articles on how a high school student maneuvers a virtual snowplow on a state-of-the-art driving simulator and how the City of Des Moines handles snow and ice on the streets and at the airport.

How do you get young people interested in shipping? Focus on something that they're waiting to be delivered—like the last book in the Harry Potter fantasy series.

In addition to being fun, and a little quirky, feature articles provide basic information—general qualifications, educational requirements, working conditions, etc.—about specific careers. So far this has included equipment operator, construction worker, project engineer, airline pilot, airport field maintenance staff, truck driver, bridge engineer, graphic designer, and all-terrain-vehicle engineer.

Go! shows readers that transportation is a varied and exciting industry full of opportunities for many different people. It covers all modes and the infrastructure in ways that young people can relate to.

Who's reading Go!
Approximately 2,500-3,000 people visit Go!'s website each month. The number of visits has increased steadily since the site launched in January 2007. Current and back issues of Go! are freely available online to all visitors.

The number of subscribers is also growing steadily (Go! seems popular with the over-21 crowd). Subscribers receive an e-mail announcing each new issue of Go! and they're eligible to win a Go! t-shirt in the Mystery Photo contest in each issue. They can also comment on articles.

Introducing teens to Go!
Getting teens' attention, much less their e-mail addresses, is tricky. Marketing efforts have been varied and continue to evolve.

Go! subscriber Benjamin Hucker won the very first Mystery Photo contest. His prize was a Go! t-shirt. Ben is an undergraduate student in civil engineering at Iowa State University.

Because initial sponsor support came primarily from Iowa-based organizations, the Go! staff focused its attention first on marketing to Iowa high school and college students. The Iowa Department of Education also sent messages about Go! to high school guidance counselors. Iowa State University's Program for Women in Science and Engineering and the Admissions office sent e-mail messages to several thousand high school students and teachers. Iowa State University freshmen, sophomores and juniors in a wide variety of majors received e-mail messages too.

Go! has also reached out to teens at Iowa events. Colorful Go! bookmarks have been distributed at the State Science and Technology Fair of Iowa, Invent Iowa, and numerous high school career fairs. During the Iowa 4-H conference this summer, the Go! editor is conducting a transportation-related workshop for teens.

Marketing efforts have extended beyond state lines as well. Go! staff contacted several organizers of construction career days for teens. Utah and Rhode Island distributed thousands of bookmarks in their students' packets. Other transportation and/or engineering teen recruiting programs in Georgia, Michigan, Texas, and Wisconsin have also distributed bookmarks. In addition, these groups received Go! t-shirts to give away as door prizes. (If you have an event coming up for teens and need bookmarks and/or door prizes, contact the Go! editor.)

Making Go! relevant to teens
Go!'s editorial board includes high school and college students who help keep Go! editor Michele Regenold (still a kid at heart) in touch with their interests and issues. Board members also include educators and transportation/public works professionals like APWA member William Stowe, Assistant City Manager, City of Des Moines, Iowa.

Keeping Go! going
Through a combination of grants, sponsorships and internal funding, the Center for Transportation Research and Education (CTRE) produced the first three issues of Go! on a shoestring budget. The grand total for the first three issues was about $27,500. Excluding the initial web design/development costs, the average cost to produce and market each issue was about $6,500. Most of that cost was salaries.

Go! got off the ground with the generous contributions of these organizations:

  • American Public Works Association, Iowa Chapter
  • Associated General Contractors of Iowa Foundation
  • Iowa State University's (ISU) Professional and Scientific Council (Retention and Recruitment Grant)
  • ISU's Provost (Women's Enrichment Fund Mini Grant)
  • ISU's Midwest Transportation Consortium
  • ISU's CTRE
  • Des Moines Truck Brokers
  • Iowa Laborers/Employers Cooperation and Education Trust Fund
  • Street Smarts

Response to Go! has been so positive that CTRE plans to continue publishing it (six issues for the 2007-2008 school year) and is seeking additional sponsors. The Midwest Transportation Consortium has committed to supporting a half-time graduate student editorial assistant.

If you'd like to help spread the word, share a story idea, become a sponsor, or just learn more about Go!, contact the editor, Michele Regenold, at (515) 296-0835 or mregenol@iastate.edu.