Through a partnership between the U.S. Department of Transportation and Spelman College, a new program has been developed to encourage girls to pursue careers in science, engineering and technology and help women in the field achieve their goals

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood was at Spelman, a four-year, traditionally black liberal arts women's college located in Atlanta, to kick off the new Pilot Entrepreneurial Training and Technical Assistance Women and Girls Program on Monday.

"Transportation is one of the most challenging and exciting industries in the country right now," LaHood said. "We'd love to see the women at Spelman and students at high schools, colleges, and universities around the country become our transportation leaders for the 21st century and come work at the U.S. Department of Transportation."

The program is part of a larger initiative by the White House to ensure that federal programs and policies take into account the distinct needs and concerns of women and girls.

"I am glad that DOT is working with Spelman College to develop young women as transportation executives," said U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia. "We need young, innovative minds prepared to deal with the transportation challenges of this century."

The partnership will create an internship and mentoring program to bring more female students into transportation-related careers and help them gain hands-on experience. It will also assist small women-owned transportation companies to compete for DOT contracts, and make sure they get the technical and finance assistance they need.

"We are excited about launching a pilot program that will introduce women and girls to public service," said Brandon Neal, U.S. DOT director of the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization. "It is our goal to assist as many women as possible and continue to be the training ground for future small business owners."