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March 22, 2013

Building public transportation’s next generation

by Nicole Schlosser

As more and more transit workers retire and their successors move into their positions, the ranks are thinning. What’s being done about it today will ensure a robust, innovative transportation workforce for tomorrow.

To help the transportation industry tap into the wide variety of professional career development programs, events, and opportunities that encourage workforce development, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) developed a workforce development website with resources such as early career professional development programs and executive education, as well as an Early Career Program.

APTA Chair Flora Castillo has made the development of the next generation of public transportation workers and leaders one of her priorities during her term.

Additionally, the Federal Transportation Administration (FTA) recently distributed $7 million in funds from its Innovative Transit Workforce Development Program to 17 organizations in 12 states. The grants will help public transit agencies, schools, nonprofit organizations, and Native American tribes train a future generation of transit professionals, with an emphasis on promoting training opportunities in emerging technologies and encouraging young people to pursue careers in public transportation.

One recipient, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, was awarded a $795,334 workforce grant to provide military veterans and high school students with skills training and assistance to help them transition into the agency’s Bus Maintenance Apprenticeship programs.

Last month, I spoke with Darrell Johnson, the new Orange County Transportation Authority CEO, about his plans to expand succession planning, including the agency’s one-year long leadership development academy. He stressed the need to develop and nurture the workforce on all levels, particularly in the transit operations group, which has an aging workforce. Look for the full interview in our April issue.

Workforce development is also crucial for women in all professions, particularly when it comes to moving into leadership positions.
Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s new book, Lean In, encourages women to do more to obtain leadership positions and take their place at the executive table.

Reviewing her book, a Time magazine article points out that “Slightly more than 4% of Fortune 500 companies are headed by women, and women hold 17% of board seats. Worse, these numbers aren’t changing very fast. Ten years ago, 14% of board seats were held by women...”

More puzzling, Sandberg also commented in the article that women are not making it to the top of any profession, and many people still don't seem aware of that fact.

Over the next few months, I look forward to researching and talking with people in the industry on this timely and important topic. I hope to gather a wide variety of perspectives. If you have a program, anecdote or thoughts on the topic that you’d like to share, please feel free to contact me.

In case you missed it...

Read our METRO blog, "Closure of Fung Wah sends clear message" here.

Nicole Schlosser

Senior Editor

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  • Joel Volinski[ March 22th, 2013 @ 10:59am ]

    Just wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to advise that the National Center for Transit Research at the University of South Florida is offering Graduate Research Assistance scholarships for students with a distinct interest in careers in public transit. This program will pay most of the costs of tuition, provide opportunities to conduct paid research mentored by faculty with extensive experience in public transit, pay for attending professional transportation conferences, and also arrange internship opportunities at local transit agencies. Applicants would receive a Masters degree in Civil Engineering and be well prepared to enter the world of public transit. A full program description is available at: We will continuously review candidates for consideration for each semester.


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