Jim Barnshaw, a former mechanic, electrician, foreman and rail shop director at SEPTA, speaks to students at Philadelphia’s Mastbaum Vocational High School about jobs at the agency.
Jobs in the transportation industry can be highly specialized, requiring employees to have very specific training and numerous certifications. How can transit organizations ensure that the workers they are hiring are well-prepared for open positions? Why not partner with technical schools to collaborate on curriculum and create a pipeline of qualified job candidates?
For years, Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) has collaborated with adult education institutions in the agency’s service area to help produce graduates that are not only ready to join the workforce in entry level positions, but are prepared for long, successful careers in their fields of choice. From campus recruitment visits to pre-employment testing and mentoring, SEPTA's aggressive education outreach efforts are designed to make it an "employer of choice" for qualified students.
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A key aspect of SEPTA's recruitment initiatives is curriculum review.
"We share students' pre-employment test results with schools so that the instructors can make adjustments to their coursework that will better prepare students," said Dan Dandrea, SEPTA's manager of recruitment. "We are also constantly reviewing curricula for new schools and programs to determine if coursework is relevant to our hiring needs."
Currently, SEPTA representatives serve on the curriculum advisory boards of eight adult education institutions.
SEPTA's efforts have been a success. “Our representation on the curriculum advisory boards has produced changes to the coursework at many of the schools, making the students’ skill sets more relevant for SEPTA’s entry level technical positions,” said Dandrea. “This has resulted in a significant benefit to our workforce, as in the past two years almost 90 technical school graduates have joined the authority as third class bus mechanics, signal trainees and power department trainees.”
The positive results are due to the commitment of SEPTA employee Jim Barnshaw. A former mechanic, electrician, foreman and rail shop director, Barnshaw works with approximately 50 trade schools, coordinating training and education programs that help “steer” students toward their goals of careers in mechanical fields.
“Jim’s experience in our shops has been invaluable to our recruitment endeavors,” said Dandrea. “He understands the expertise our employees need, not only to obtain jobs, but also to advance in their positions at SEPTA.” Barnshaw’s work has earned him industry recognition.
In addition to prepping post-secondary students, SEPTA has an internship program for Philadelphia high school students who are enrolled in mechanical or electrical programs.
“Each summer, we hire 10 to 15 students to work with our rail and bus mechanics and electricians,” said Dandrea. “By mentoring and training students before they graduate from high school, we are putting them on track for long-term career success, hopefully at SEPTA.”
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