San Rafael, CA – On May 22, a group of 26 high school students attended a special tour of the Marin County Department of Public Works (DPW) headquarters as part of the 59th annual National Public Works Week celebration. Hosted by DPW and planned in conjunction with the Marin County Office of Education, the field trip introduced the students to a wide range of disciplines that fall under the purview of public works. It was the first time in recent decades that an extensive Public Works tour was organized for students.
Students visited the County Garage, where fleet vehicles are maintained.
Teens from Terra Linda, Tamalpais and San Rafael high schools were met at the Marin County Civic Center entrance by DPW’s Director, Raul Rojas. Following the Director’s welcome and an overview of what public works agencies are responsible for, the students began an educational tour of six of the 19 divisions that comprise DPW.
“Our department’s goal is to build a better community, but that doesn’t always mean building infrastructure,” Rojas said. “We’re proud to have had this opportunity to connect with local students and share our knowledge with the next generation. It’s important to show them the variety of meaningful careers that are available, ones that strive to improve our community for all.”
The department’s Engineering Division conducted a land surveying demonstration for the students, giving them hands-on experience with professional-grade equipment. The teens then visited the engineering offices to learn how an infrastructure project goes from design and planning to permitting and implementation. Building upon that, Capital Division staff shared what is entailed in maintaining and implementing improvements for over 50 public service facilities across Marin.
The students also spent time with the Building Maintenance Division, learning the intricacies of the Marin County Civic Center, a historical landmark, and how employees keep it operational. The maintenance crew members gave a tour of a section of the building’s underbelly, including the boiler room and ventilation systems, and explained the complex upkeep that goes into it every day of the year.
DPW’s Fleet, Communications and Roads divisions hosted the group of students at the nearby County Garage. Fleet Division representatives explained the different mechanic specialties that are required to keep a fleet of over 700 vehicles fully functional, including the specialized inventory for Sheriff and Fire departments. Staff presented a variety of vehicles to the students; some vehicles were raised up on hydraulic lifts to explain the extensive work that goes into maintaining them.
Employees from the Roads Division detailed the various duties that they are responsible for, everything from working on 421 miles of roadway across unincorporated Marin to being on the front line during emergency storm response efforts. The staff exhibited a wide range of heavy equipment and industrial vehicles used for everything from vegetation management to road construction. A highlight of the exhibition was a large excavator demonstration conducted by one of the division’s senior operators.
The Communications Division showed a range of high-tech radio equipment that it deploys, operates and maintains across the county, including installing state-of-the-art communications units into first-responder vehicles. The students were particularly captivated by a new armored truck that DPW’s staff is preparing for the Sheriff’s Office. A Sheriff’s representative joined the DPW’s staff to give a detailed technical rundown of the equipment.
The field trip was planned as part of the National Public Works Week, which is intended to increase awareness of the duties that public works agencies perform for their communities. The County of Marin as a whole is committed to encouraging younger generations entering the workforce to pursue careers in local government. The County has developed an internship program and a Career Explorer Youth Program to make such pathways more accessible. Efforts are also being made to create more entry level positions in various departments, including Public Works.