'Going to School' to Cultivate the Next Generation of Transit Employees

Posted on March 26, 2019 by Heather Redfern - Also by this author

Jennifer Thompkins, Assistant Director of Youth Programs for TriZen, LLC and SEPTA’s Dan Amspacher presenting to Samuel Fels High School students in the classroom. Photo: SEPTA
Jennifer Thompkins, Assistant Director of Youth Programs for TriZen, LLC and SEPTA’s Dan Amspacher presenting to Samuel Fels High School students in the classroom. Photo: SEPTA
Each year, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) honors its retirees from the previous fiscal year with an awards luncheon. In 2016, there was a record 367 honorees. In 2018, the Authority recognized 344 retirees — 19 with at least 40 years of service with the Authority. One of those honorees had 45 years of service at SEPTA.

Replacing experienced, long-tenured employees — especially those in the skilled trades — is an issue SEPTA shares with industries across the country. To help mitigate the effects of a potential workforce shortage, SEPTA is taking its recruitment efforts to the next generation, reaching out to students about careers in transportation.

“Being an operator, engineer or a crew member is a terrific job,” said Dan Amspacher, SEPTA’s Director of Strategic Initiatives. “There are so many positions within our organization that a lot of people don’t realize exist. We want to let students know that there are many career options within our industry — something for everyone’s talents.”

Participation in career fairs and school career days has helped SEPTA introduce its many job possibilities to thousands of students in the Greater Philadelphia region.  A special relationship with a Philadelphia public high school could “drive” potential future employees in the Authority’s direction.  

Students touring SEPTA’s Control Center. Photo: SEPTA
Students touring SEPTA’s Control Center. Photo: SEPTA
In January 2018, SEPTA kicked off its partnership with Samuel Fels High School at an assembly where authority employees shared information on the numerous careers SEPTA offers, internship opportunities and their personal career paths to 350 9th and 10th grade students.

Over the past year, SEPTA has adopted Fels, interacting with more than 400 students by holding work readiness workshops and hosting students for a day-long tour at the SEPTA Headquarters. SEPTA’s partnership with Fels comes through the Adopt-A-School Program, an initiative designed by the Urban League of Philadelphia and TriZen LLC, to create partnerships between companies and GEAR UP Philadelphia high schools.

“The goal of the Adopt-A-School Program is to foster an environment of academic achievement and post-secondary education, while creating potential pipelines to future employment,” said Jennifer Thompkins, Assistant Director of Youth Programs for TriZen, LLC. “The program is now in its third year and is targeting the classes of 2020 and 2021.

This year, SEPTA is working with 11th grade students on their career plans and preparing them for summer internships through workshops held at their high school. In a recent session, Amspacher, and Thompkins introduced students to the various types of post-secondary institutions and discussed characteristics students should consider when researching schools.

“We want students to start thinking about the next steps they need to take to reach their career goals,” said Thompkins. “This includes understanding various types of financial aid, taking college tours and registering for summer internships.”

Samuel Fels High School logo. Photo: SEPTA
Samuel Fels High School logo. Photo: SEPTA
 Six-week paid summer internships are offered by employers registered with the Urban League of Philadelphia/TriZen LLC program.

“The internships can help students find something they are passionate about,” added Thompkins.

In addition to SEPTA, some of the Greater Philadelphia’s biggest employers participate in the Adopt-A-School program, including Comcast, AmeriHealth Caritas, Independence Blue Cross, iHeartMedia, Philadelphia Gas Works, TD Bank and UPS.

Heather Redfern is the Public Information Manager for the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority. 






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