2014 TBM Roundtable

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Education and Training in the Tunneling Industry

Back (l-r) – Lok Home, David Chapman, Mike Mooney, Matt Swinton, Brian Fulcher;
seated – Red Robinson, Jamal Rostami, Kellie Rotunno, Mike Warren.

Education and Training in the Tunneling Industry

The issue of education and training has been much-discussed within the tunneling industry over the last several years – if not decades. The industry has continued to grow and become more complex, and the existing workforce is not getting any younger. The need to attract and retain the next generation of tunnelers is becoming more evident each day – this is true both at the professional engineering level and at the trades and craftsmen level.

To explore the state of education and training within the tunneling market, TBM gathered a panel of leading professionals during the North American Tunneling Conference, June 23 in Los Angeles. The panel represented a cross-section of the market, including contractors, consultants, owners, equipment manufacturers, unions and academia.

Participants included:

Brian Fulcher
Kenny Construction

Mike Warren
Northwest Laborers-Employers Training Trust

David Chapman
Lachel & Associates

Lok Home
The Robbins Company

Red Robinson
Shannon & Wilson

Jamal Rostami
Penn State

Matt Swinton
Kiewit

Kellie Rotunno
Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District (NEORSD)

Mike Mooney
Colorado School of Mines (CSM)

What is the current state of education and training in the tunneling/heavy civil construction market?  Is there need within the industry to recruit and train?

Rotunno – The recruiting and training of an educated workforce is a challenge whether you are an owner, a contractor or an engineering firm. More college-level programs are going away than starting up. From an owner’s perspective, it is challenging to draw in the expertise and find construction managers who have underground experience and the ability to oversee contractors that are building large tunnels – and that is what you need in order to implement long-term tunneling programs like many entities are doing across the country for combined sewer overflow (CSO) compliance. At NEORSD we have been fortunate to find a few experienced individuals who have wanted to come out of the traveling workforce and return to their home region. We are also somewhat unique in that NEORSD has been building tunnels for decades, so we have been able to build experience in-house. But if you are an owner just starting up a program and you don’t have that workforce established – how do you establish that workforce?

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Robinson – There are not any schools, except maybe CSM, which is getting ramped up, that produce educated tunnel engineers that we have located – they seem to have all gone away. One of the challenges as an engineering firm is finding master’s level engineers that have some knowledge and background in the basics of tunnel design and tunnel engineering. For the most part we educate people as we bring them in. We send them to things like short courses and conferences and we train them internally, starting them on a variety of jobs and working them up the ladder.

What is the state of education related to tunneling and underground construction at the collegiate level?

Mooney – Civil engineering in general is growing, but, CSM aside, the vast majority of engineering programs around the country have no presence whatsoever in the underground industry. There is no teaching of courses in those topics. That is a real problem. The trend over time is that the teaching of tunneling has declined over the years. There are many reasons for that, but whatever the reason, students are just not getting exposed to this industry. And I am convinced, as I think we all are, if you expose students to the underground and tunneling industry, show them complexity, they just move toward it – it is such a great field. It is really about getting these contact hours with students.
Other industries – the pile driving community and drilled shaft communities, for example – have organized summer workshops for university professors and instructors and give them curriculum materials to incorporate those concepts into their courses. In our industry, as an example we could use a tunneling lecture to teach concepts like soil mechanics or rock mechanics. It’s then that you start to get hundreds of students getting contact hours with tunneling and get them introduced to tunneling and underground construction.

Swinton – One of the best things I did as part of my education was  a hands-on underground mining class where we got to run a jackleg, operate a loader, loaded holes and shot rounds at the CSM Edgar Experimental Mine. That has really stuck with me over my career and I can draw on that experience.
One of the key ways students get involved in the industry is exposure during their education. That is where the interest in our industry really takes root the most and you get the people that are the pipeline of the future.  Those people also seem to stay in the industry the longest.  So if you have a professor who is passionate about underground and tunneling work, or if you are in high school and someone tells you about this neat tunnel project and you get to go visit it – that is where you start to develop an interest and passion for the industry.

Why are we seeing a decrease in the number of colleges and universities teaching tunneling and tunnel-related courses?

Mooney – One trend we’ve seen over the last 20 years is that faculty hires are driven by research. Research is a huge component of higher education at every institution now. It used to be 20 years ago that maybe 10, 20 percent of the universities were really research-driven, now it is a critical part of every university. As a result, faculty are hired in areas where they can get research funding, and research funding is difficult to get in underground construction and tunneling so consequently schools are not hiring in those areas. They end up hiring in non-underground areas and everything trickles through faculty – the courses that are being delivered, the curricula that are being set up, the focus areas within whatever discipline those faculty are teaching in. The lack of research in underground, the lack of federal funding for research in underground, and the lack of a strong university-industry cooperation in research in general affect the presence of an industry in higher education and therefore the number of students. Compare this to oil and gas or other sectors and you will see a stark contrast.

Rostami – The lack of funding for research and recruiting students is obvious in our profession. A lot of schools were active in tunnel research in the 70s and 80s because of the federal funding, but we haven’t seen any of that recently. One idea that we circulated a few years ago was establishing a set-aside for research in federal funding of tunneling projects. In tunneling and underground construction we already have a set-aside ratio for minority-owned businesses or women-owned businesses, so the industry can use the advocacy to urge Congress or other bodies of legislature for a set-aside – maybe 0.1 percent of project cost – for R&D in large projects. That would drive activities in terms of research and teaching, and our industry is familiar with that concept already.

Robinson – When I was at the University of Illinois in the 70s, we had – along with Berkley and the University of Minnesota – a very strong underground program and most of that was because the teaching assistants and research assistants got paid out of federal grants or state grants that wanted research done on tunneling, particularly the Washington, D.C., subway construction. Once that fell away, it was hard for schools to recruit professors and hard to recruit students because they are not able to pay those research assistants salaries to get them involved.

Couldn’t an owner establish a set-aside without going through the legislature?

Rotunno – It may need to be a mandate in order for an owner to spend rate-payer dollars on research. That is not something that is embraced very well by the public. That said, there is research going on in our program and we are now testing some plastic fibers in tunnel segments that are going to be installed and monitored over the long haul to see if we might be able to move to plastic segments. There is not a university with us – it is the owner, contractor and segment manufacturer. That said, EPA could mandate that a certain percentage of research and development be included under a consent decree for CSO control. That is essentially what happened with us within our green infrastructure component.

Robinson – Thinking back on the Stillwater tunnel, the contractor hired Ed Cording from the University of Illinois as a consultant to evaluate new excavation technology and he brought in students to monitor the ground movements and things like that to both assist the construction contractor as well as resulting in a thesis at the end. So I think there is potential there.

Mooney – At CSM, we approach contractors, suppliers and owners to do research on tunnel projects in places like New York, Los Angeles and Seattle. This approach generally works well and could be grown.

Rostami – And the problem is many times contractors and owners are kicking and screaming not to get into research. Sometimes it is difficult to even send an intern or a student to a jobsite to monitor the work and collect data. That is the sad part of it. We need to change that attitude. At least they could be more open, even if they don’t want to invest in it.
It is interesting that among developed countries, the United States doesn’t have a focused research organization on tunneling. If you go to Germany, Switzerland, Austria, China, you will see special centers for research on tunneling. The issue of investing 0.1 percent of the project cost in research is really nothing if it becomes part of the requirement. It makes the research sustainable and not sporadic. And, the research results in real benefits to the industry and to the owners in the long run in operating the facilities; it’s not just research for the sake of research, it is targeted to improve the construction methods and quality of work. Also if you have ongoing research, every indicator shows that for every dollar you spend you get $10-20 back in general to that sector or to the economy.

Until we can get more funding for tunnel-related research at the university level, what can we do now to attract new students and potential workers into the underground industry?

Swinton – One of the issues I see is that every year at these conferences we see the same faces. We need to get the word out and attract new people somehow, perhaps through additional sponsorships or scholarships.

Mooney – it is true about the students and the lack of student attendance at conferences like NAT and RETC. Contrast that with other society meetings like ASCE’s Geo-Institute or other geological engineering societies – there is tremendous involvement of students at those annual meetings. I think UCA is certainly trying with scholarships to get more students here but we are not getting enough students at these meetings. We should set a goal for 100 students from all over the US at each NAT and RETC conference.

Fulcher – How do we make that a priority? At the ITA’s World Tunnel Congress there is a poster session lined up with younger people and it’s almost a feeding frenzy to be part of it. There is almost no limits to what they can do. We are limited, whether it’s physical or financial. At Kenny, we make recruiting, training and retaining employees a priority. I am not coming to industry events as much anymore. I am encouraging younger staff and they have to bring something back. We are having brownbag lunches and other things that encourage support, involvement and engagement.

Robinson – When I was with the RETC scholarship committee, we would send a notice to a dozen universities that students could apply for a scholarship. Even though we were very liberal about giving away the scholarships, we provided scholarships to only a handful of students; we would have gladly given 15 or 20. So the students aren’t recognizing that this is a real vocation. There are a lot of opportunities in this field and it is pretty good pay. It is not necessarily that they are being seduced by other sectors, they don’t know that we exist. I give a lecture on tunneling at the University of Washington every year, and the students have never heard about it as a real profession. So we are just not getting the word out there through the scholarships or by talking to the schools in enough depth that the students recognize that this is a vocation.

Chapman – The master’s and Ph.D. students are the primary student attendees of this conference, but we need to reach people at the sophomore and junior levels – before they even figure out what they want to do. We need to show them that this is an exciting field with some really great opportunities. When I left graduate school at Purdue, there was a very strong bent on pushing people to geotechnical consultants. There was really only one professor that was telling people to look at industry and other avenues. So one way we can get to the students is to reach out the professors so that students are exposed to tunneling early on. I presented some case histories for Priscilla Nelson at the New Jersey Institute of Technology and the students really seemed to be interested.

Fulcher – We do that from time to time too; if you buy enough pizza you get a lot of people, and you have a pretty captive audience, which is good. The Moles, for example, has a student day that attracts approximately 400 students touring jobs in New York City to the point where it is a major logistical challenge. They’ll visit projects like East Side Access and Second Avenue Tunnel and it’s really a high-quality educational event. The problem is though, that doing it for one day is a flash. We need to get their attention earlier and more often. It goes back to the outreach and continuous publicity about our industry.

Swinton – We mentioned earlier about offering scholarships to try to get more people here. Maybe we are not taking an aggressive enough approach – for example, maybe the first 100 students, the first 100 professors, and the first 100 owner representatives  should all get in for free and as an industry we support that.

Robinson – There have been some ASCE meetings in Seattle where the students got in free in exchange for working the signup tables and things like that. It is not unusual to get on the order of 50 students out of 300 people attending those local conferences. As an organization, I don’t know that we are effectively reaching out to the local universities for our national conferences and let them know that their students can come for free.

Chapman – One of the things that Schnabel does is sponsor a lecture series at a couple of universities, including Virginia Tech and Villanova. Over the past few years we have had a couple of tunneling topics. Don Deere and Ed Cording were among the guest lecturers. The thing that has been impressive to me in both cases was the attendance. There were probably 150-200 people at those lectures. I know that has been effective for Schnabel in getting students interested and potentially recruiting them, primarily in the geotechnical area and not tunneling. But there was a lot of interest in Ed Cording’s talk on tunneling and the advancements in TBMs and instrumentation and how we can monitor and control what we do, particularly in urban environments.

Rostami – The large issue that we are facing is the lack of attractiveness of these jobs both on the worker level and also on the higher education level. And that is primarily because of the perception of the tunneling and mining industry. We have 100 percent placement and we have higher-than-average pay, so you would assume that people would be rushing to go to our department. Yet we have 40 students, and it is the same issue more or less in other mining schools. We have to overcome the perception that underground worker or engineer is a guy with a shovel and dirty face. Today’s generation would like to have something exciting, interesting. How many of the kids you talk to would be willing to work for Google? Pretty much 100 percent, right? The perception is everything for a lot of these and we haven’t done much to service ourselves as far as that perception. Manufacturers have produced some nice animations about the machines, and every time they are shown in class I get a lot of wows. These are the things that will help people make a decision to come to this trade as a career. If it comes down to it, we have to start making movies. Somehow or another we have to foster our perception as a forward-thinking, R&D oriented, cutting-edge technology industry.

Swinton – How do we get that word out? Should the Underground Construction Association (UCA) of SME be putting up money to publish ads and go to high schools and do that type of thing? Where does that perception change start?

Rostami – We have to take a multi-step approach. There is no one solution here. Getting to the students at high school level, even kids at an earlier age could also be considered. How many of the projects have a systematic approach in terms of inviting the local community even to come and look at the project? In a lot of cases, you guys are contractors and you have a job to do, but you have to keep in mind that people coming to visit the job would appreciate what you are doing and they would know where their tax dollars are going. And they would actually support you. But a lot of the contractors say ‘I have a job to do, just keep off my site.’ So we have to change that, and it has to be a multi-faceted approach to this.

Fulcher – If you had twice the number of students in your department, for example, could you get the corresponding teaching faculty to ramp up with additional staff and resources?

Rostami – If it is sustainable, yes. If it is a peak, no. Universities don’t work based on a peak. Right now, our petroleum program has surged. It went from 150 students to 700 in less than three years. If that is a permanent number coming in, university will hire faculty to maintain a reasonable level of student-to-faculty ratio.

Fulcher – So your staff is diluted with respect to student/professor ratios?

Rostami – Yes. It is a huge problem across the country because of the gas drilling. There has been a surge because students see salaries that are $90,000 or $100,000 thousand for a bachelor’s degree.

Rotunno – ASCE issues its Infrastructure Report Card that indicates that there is a lot of aging infrastructure that needs to be replaced. It shows that there is a need for civil engineers and other to address those needs in the future.
Developing a trained workforce at the collegiate level is one part of the process. Another is educating owners and owner representatives who are tasked with managing tunneling programs.

Fulcher – One of the things that we have noticed is that the number of owners at industry events is low, yet they may be the more desirable part of the attending population. So as a contractor, we have to do a better job of finding the owners and encouraging attendance. Typically the people in the owner’s ear are designers, and as contractors we don’t necessarily have that opportunity to have that conversation and there can be a lack of understanding as to what we do as contractors. If we are able to increase our outreach and talk with the owners, we can reduce the concerns or uncertainty that is often associated with tunneling projects.

Robinson – I think one of the challenges in getting owners to attend industry events is maybe the owners don’t even recognize that these meetings exist. And a lot of owners I know have a reluctance to put out the cost to send people, so oftentimes the only ones who get to come are the ones that know something about tunneling and maybe co-authored a paper, so we are a little self-limiting. Maybe we need to provide scholarships for owners.

Rotunno – What happens with our organization is that contractors and engineers will ask us to co-author papers and take the initiative to reach out to the owner for their involvement and collaboration – that helps our ability to attend conferences.

Robinson – When I was involved with the RETC committee, we preferred to see papers co-authored by the designer and the contractor. So maybe a requirement should be that it is co-authored by the designer, contractor and the owner so that we get more owners involved in coming to meetings.

Rotunno – As owners we also need to reach out to other owners and share our stories, perhaps through an owners forum for tunneling. Many owners are afraid of the risk and are deferring their programs or they’re afraid of the costs or afraid of the politics. Through an owners forum, organizations that are advancing their programs can come forward and share their knowledge and experience. I don’t know if it is out of the realm of possibility to think about some sort of workforce sharing where we could deploy someone to help them get their program up and running from an owner’s perspective.

Swinton – It is true that there are few first-time or new owners at industry events – mostly they are owners from established tunneling programs like NEORSD, so some type of owners forum is a great idea to share the lessons learned and the best practices. It would be a win-win for the industry. Not just for the owners, but as a contractor having a more educated first-time owner would be a great benefit to the contractors also.

The other area that we haven’t touched upon is the area of trained skilled craftsmen. What is status of training skilled laborers?

Warren – At the Northwest Laborers Employers Training Trust Fund in Washington State we train and re-train apprentices and journey workers. We have about 550 apprentices in the state right now. We cover Washington, northern Idaho and Utah with five different training centers. Our headquarters is Kingston, Washington, where we have a residential facility where we can house and feed 80 people at a time. Then we have our tunnel training program located at the old Satsop Nuclear Power Plant that began construction in the late 70s and was abandoned. We lease property there and have set up, through the generous donations of tunneling contractors, a tunnel training program. Vinci/Parsons/Frontier-Kemper donated an 17.5-ft diameter TBM from the Brightwater job, so we have the cutterhead, front shield, middle shield, and two airlocks hooked up. We manufactured the second middle shield and the tail shield and then King Co. donated 300 ft of concrete segments which we have 90 ft set up behind it to look like an above-ground tunnel. Traylor/Frontier-Kemper has generously donated 1,200 ft of railroad track, slurry lines, utility lines, conveyor systems, rigid vent lines, walkways , so we have that all set up on the inside to create tunneling scenarios for training the front-line workforce.
We also have a Coluccio-donated decommissioned decompression chamber/transfer chamber that allows people to get used to getting into that hole. We recently partnered with Brookville Corp., which has donated a 15-ton refurbished locomotive. We have right now about 800 ft of track laid out that where we are training people on how to operate the loci – when it jumps the tracks how to get it back on and the safety techniques that you need to know in the tunnel. We have four classes – we have a 40-hour comprehensive classes, including: tunnel safety; rail installation and tunnel shoring; installation and maintenance of the utilities; and locomotives.
The classes are open to everybody. We are not just targeting our union membership or future union membership in trying to get them interested in tunneling and trained for tunneling projects, but also targeting the owners and the safety professionals and insurance companies, the municipalities – anybody that is a stakeholder in tunneling as a whole should be sending or can send somebody to at least get a basic understanding of what tunneling is about and what it may look like in a safe situation.
We have national tunnel training program based out of Tucson, Arizona, that teaches more conventional tunneling like drill and shoot, whereas the tunnel training that we have focused on in Washngton is more the TBM piece of it. Both components are important as we move forward.

What kind of responses have you had from people coming through the course? Is it declining or increasing?

Warren – This past year I budgeted to train 120 people. I ended up doing 190. That was a pleasant problem to have. For the trades, as far as recruitment and outreach, I think we all have the exact same problem as engineers and contractors, which is there are a lot less people to choose from. Thirty to 40 years ago, we had young people competing for jobs, so we got to make it more enticing. The word ‘laborer’ for us works against us too. When you think of a laborer, you think of someone who pushes brooms and picks up sticks. Well we do some of that too, but we are still building the bridges and the skyscrapers and putting the utilities in and building the tunnels and doing the environmental cleanup. It is an honorable profession and people who enjoy working with their hands and getting dirty can make a really good living at it.

Swinton – Having skilled craftsmen is the basis for a successful industry; it is the foundation for the success of the industry because if we don’t have the skilled craftspeople one needs more skilled managers and technical people to compensate, and that puts an additional burden on the rest of the industry to produce more skilled engineers and professionals.  So I don’t think we can underestimate the importance of training for our craft people.
Additionally, I would say in general that the availability of skilled craftspeople has declined. I don’t know if the decline is due to how our industry is perceived, or due to the fact that some cities just haven’t been building tunnels for a while and now they are ramping up big CSO programs. There are a number of factors contributing to it.

As the industry has evolved and the availability of labor and students has changed, how have you changed your approach to hiring?

Swinton – From a contractor’s perspective, 15-20 years ago we were almost exclusively looking for people already with skills for underground work. We were looking for mining engineers that had been trained, with perhaps a few civil engineers and geotechnical engineers mixed in. That was our core group that we recruited. Over time this has changed, and in recent years we have looked for engineers that we can teach the underground-related skill set to. There are very few people, if any, that you hire that actually have the underground skills already. We are almost exclusively looking for somebody who knows how to do engineering, has the right mindset, the right work ethic, and then we train them. Generally speaking, we are looking for bachelor-level hires. Master’s level graduates tend to be very specialized, and we prefer somebody with a broader skillset who hasn’t specialized yet.

Fulcher – Kenny is the same in that we primarily train on the job and within the company dynamics and culture.

Robinson – It is interesting that from a consulting perspective we rarely hire bachelors level because we are looking for engineers who are specialized in geotech and they really don’t typically specialize until they get to the master’s level. So we are always looking for master’s students, but we don’t typically hire Ph.Ds.

Rostami – On the issue of recruiting, some of the larger companies – like URS or AECOCM — may show up at career fairs but they are recruiting in broad terms, not specifically in tunneling. So it would be good for some of the tunneling contractors and tunneling specialty consultants to come to the career fairs for recruiting specifically for tunneling. It means a lot to the students. When they see a company come in every year for recruiting for tunneling it plants a seed in their head that this is a career that they can pursue. A lot of companies come to career fair at Penn State, however mining companies and petroleum companies come directly to our department, targeting the students. And even if they are not hiring this year, they are coming to make sure that they are in the student’s mind for future consideration and make sure the company name rings a bell with the students.

Swinton – I think that is absolutely right. I would say our best successes in recruiting are not the students who walk up and meet us the first time at the career fair, it is the ones who we have met two or three or four times over the course of their education because we’ve been at their school presenting, been involved in the department, sponsored research or senior designs, or sponsored student group activities.

Rostami – My suggestion is that each company can target a few schools and actually partner with them on research, on recruiting, on activities involving students such as lectures/seminars, and some fun activities like golf outings. It creates a rich experience for the students and leaves a mark in their head as far as a good career for them. It is a two-way street.

Chapman – The availability of craftsmen reflects a trend in the society. A lot of those kinds of jobs – small factories and things like that – don’t exist anymore. A lot of where the young labor force wants to look for jobs now is service jobs. I grew up in a farming community and farmers can’t hire kids to do farm work anymore because they all would prefer to work service jobs. It is not an exact correlation, but I learned a lot of good skills working with farmers in terms of doing basic hands-on kinds of things.

What else can be done to improve the level of education and training for the tunneling industry?

Home – One piece that is missing as part of the discussion is qualifications. There is very little old-school mining going on … Everybody has a computerized cab to drill off now and it is not so much about a worker’s experience level as it is pretty mechanized. So I think we need to break that down and have a qualification if you are an operator of certain things – an industry standard qualification. We have seen problems on billion dollar projects where the issues are not mechanical but rather operational. So we have guys operating these machines – $100 million machines – and they’re not trained. It has cost our industry a lot of credibility because we didn’t train the operators. I would say two-thirds of the operators shouldn’t be operating equipment. That is a big statement, but I think it is very true.

Rotunno – As owners we are concerned about operator qualifications and to that end we have started to require minimum qualifications for the operator within our bid prequalifications. Contractors have to submit and guarantee that an individual will actually be operating certain equipment. If industry could offer some minimal training or certification – whether they have successfully mined x number of lf under whatever type of conditions – that would be helpful.

Fulcher – That is well intended. From a contractor’s perspective, if you want something as an owner, we want to deliver it, but we can’t always guarantee that the availability of “qualified operators” in a union labor environment. When we go into a qualification or a proposal, we don’t necessarily have a contractual or hiring relationship with the equipment operators because it is a craft vocation and under the purview of the labor union in that location.

Home – Maybe we could take it out of that level. You could pay them as much as a 747 operator, the price of the equipment is the same. The skill level is the same. What are we doing treating them the same as a general laborer?

Fulcher – It’s just like the guy operating the jack hammer or pouring the concrete – these are assigned jobs. And in unionized labor environments, they come from the locally available skilled labor force. We all want the same thing, but as contractors we face barriers – and benefits – because of collective bargaining agreements.

Swinton – A parallel example we might be able to use here is the ACI certification for shotcrete nozzlemen. There is a requirement to have certain special training and owners almost always require that you have ACI nozzlemen. There is a very set procedure for that program that you send people through to be ‘certified.’ Maybe that’s where we need to go with an operator’s certification similar in concept to the ACI nozzlemen.

Home –I think we as an industry should put a program together and we should charge for the program – it can be six months and cover rock, slurry, EPB, maybe roadheaders. If you make it free, nobody puts a value to it.

Rotunno – Without qualified operators, the industry runs the risk of getting a black eye on a project that is high-profile and runs into difficulty if it is exposed that it was the result of an operational difficulty. As an owner, we require that our engineers stamp the drawings and be licensed professional engineers. That is the first step in a successful project, yet arguably not as important as a successful construction. But what certifications and requirements do we have on our contractors? You have to hold a license in the state in which you are doing business, and whatever prequalifications the owner puts into the procurement documents. That’s it. As an owner, we can specific that a firm has to have completed x number of projects of similar complexity and size, but it really boils down to who is behind the machine and who is reading the instrumentation as that machine is progressing. If we as an industry don’t offer certifications, we run the risk failed or flawed projects.

Fulcher – The problem is that sometimes the wants and needs of industry are misaligned to the skillsets. As contractors, we don’t want somebody steering a $25 million TBM it into the ground and making a mess of it. We take a tremendous risk, so we seek high skillsets in the TBM operator and many others. We have union guys who travel with us, but we only have a few. So we are frequently reaching into a locally available skilled labor bucket that we don’t really control to fulfill important contract requirements.

Rostami – I have worked with contractors that are not well experienced with TBMs, and one of my early recommendations to them was that it takes 9 months to a year to procure a machine and have it on site. They can hire local individuals from a union and send them off to another site to work three to four months with an operator on a different project to get that skillset and be involved with machine assembly, so they develop the required skillset. But that is probably about six to eight months of somebody on the payroll to get that skillset and the contractors would have to be able to absorb that.

We have addressed many issues and areas for improvement. Do you have any summary or concluding thoughts?

Robinson – I think it is interesting that this discussion has gone on for the last 20 years. I remember an RETC talk 10 to 15 years ago that said there was on the order of 30 schools that offered mining degrees in 60s and 70s, and at that time they were down to less than 10. Now it may be even fewer. The country has suffered a huge loss in the availability of students coming out in mining and tunneling and so as a result we are training them internally – training them on the job because they don’t have the background experience. So somehow our industry needs to pull together to decide if we are going to fund and support tunneling and mining education. And I don’t think we’ve gotten there yet.

Swinton – I think it is a matter of stewardship. We have to figure out how to do this and tackle the challenges that we have been talking about today and for the last 20 years in order to make sure that we leave the next generation in the right position to be successful and have an industry that grows and makes us proud.

Fulcher – It’s a multi-prong approach – you’ve got a funding matter, you’ve got an educational matter, you’ve got a hiring and retention matter, you have a developing skillsets matter, you have an image matter. So there is a lot to do for many underground construction people, so it goes back to setting up a game plan that is widely accepted by owners, contractors, academia, and the trades.

Home – To solve that problem we should leverage UCA. UCA has funds and resources available if we were to put a program together. We need to have goals, and go ahead and do it.

Rostami – We have to keep in mind that education and research goes together. The capacity for research in tunneling in the United States right now is very limited and minimal and it has to be rebuilt. It takes time and it takes consistent and continued support to build up to a level that we can actually do customized research and teaching.

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