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.
RELATED: "Workforce Development: Who Will Run Transit Tomorrow?"
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.”
Looking for a job in transit or interested in posting a job, visit METRO's Transit Job Finder.
In case you missed it...
Read our METRO blog, "How safety programs can help transit meet budget challenges"
The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority’s Regional (commuter) Rail system was inherited from the Pennsylvania and Reading Railroads and the infrastructure in many sections of the system has been serving the Philadelphia area for more than 100 years. Fifteen years ago, overhead catenary system (OCS) failures were a common occurrence on SEPTA Regional Rail, a result of fatigue cracks and wear. The all too common OCS failures were frustrating for SEPTA customers who occasionally found it difficult to depend on train service for their travels and for SEPTA, whose crews were constantly working to repair and maintain the system.
London is one of the grand cities of the world and in the midst of the cycling revolution. Led by the city’s transport organization – Transport for London, but supported by more fundamental changes in the city’s society, economy and perceptions of lifestyle and mobility, cycling is “on a roll”!
Tech-enabled ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft already appear to be acting as a complement to public transit. Uber analyzed its Los Angeles trip data to in this light. Over the course of a month, Uber found that 22 percent of trips taken near Metro stations took place during rush hour (between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday). This data could be telling us that people are using Uber like they might use bikeshare, as a last-mile and first-mile connection to transit.
Driverless cars have been in the news for quite some time. Last September, I speculated in PC 360, an insurance trade magazine, that insurance premiums for autos could decrease by as much as 40% over the next five years as autonomous cars made travel much safer. I increased my estimate to a 75% decrease in insurance premiums by extending the timeline to 15 years. When I wrote those two articles, I remember thinking how much of a personal paradigm shift was needed to accept a driverless car as safe. Now, it appears that driverless buses are in the near future as well.
What do transit authorities like SEPTA, MBTA, MTA and BART have in common other than transporting thousands, even millions of riders every day? All were recently ranked as four of the U.S.’s 500 “Best Employers” by Forbes magazine.
SEPTA, MBTA, MTA and BART were among 25 organizations included in Forbes’ “Transportation & Logistics” category, along with Southwest Airlines, Amtrak, CSX, Union Pacific and Greyhound. In fact, SEPTA (#33) and MBTA (#49) placed higher than Apple (#55) and SEPTA was the highest ranked company in Pennsylvania.