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Posts in Category: Equity

Bus Bus Maintenance Equity

Prospective technicians welcomed, challenged to show ‘grit’ 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Wednesday, December 06, 2017 5:41:00 AM

Participants in the Metro Transit Technician Training program at the Overhaul Base on Friday, Dec. 1, 2017.Wearing an oil-stained florescent jacket, Ravie Sawh stood before a group of 50 job seekers and their supporters at Metro Transit's Overhaul Base last week.

The group was assembled to hear what their futures could look like as the newest participants in the Metro Transit Technician Training program and, eventually, as full-time mechanic-technicians at the agency. 

“You’re going to have to start motivating yourself every day,” Sawh told the group. “But if you’re looking for a job where you’re never going to be bored, this is the place for you.”

Sawh was among the first individuals to participate in the MTT training program, which combines personal development, on-the-job training and support toward earning a two-year associates degree.

Two years after starting, he and a dozen others from that first group are working as full-time Bus Maintenance interns and looking forward to graduating from Hennepin Technical College next spring.

A second group of MTT participants being guided toward careers in Rail Maintenance are also working as full-time interns after starting classes at Hennepin Technical College this fall.

Now at Heywood Garage, Sawh has already cast his gaze well past graduation: He wants to retire from Metro Transit after 30 or more years of service.

The new MTT participants welcomed last week were encouraged to start envisioning a similar future for themselves, despite the difficult road ahead. Many of the participants have little or no mechanical experience and will have to juggle classes, second- and third-shift work, tutoring and other responsibilities to reach the finish line.

“We need people with grit, people who are going to stay with it,” said Wanda Kirkpatrick, the director of the Met Council's Office of Equal Opportunity. “But why are you going to do it? Because at the end of the day this is going to feed you, feed your family and make sure the place you live is the place you want to live.”

The Office of Equal Opportunity is leading the program with support from Bus Maintenance and the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1005. Several technicians will be tapped to serve as mentors.

Minneapolis-based non-profit Twin Cities R!SE is also a key partner. The participants’ first step is to finish 12 personal empowerment classes offered by the organization.

A group of 20 participants who finish those classes and meet other criteria will be invited to move forward to the program’s next phases, including custom training, a full-time paid internship and support toward earning an associates degree.

Successful participants starting this month will be eligible to apply for full-time technician roles in late 2020. Full-time technicians now start at around $27 an hour, a wage many at the Overhaul Base last week said would be life-changing.

Thomas Scott, who is overseeing the program on behalf of the Office of Equal Opportunity, said the prospect of a good-paying career should be just a part of the motivation. More than 250 people applied for the program.

“Remember how many people wanted this opportunity,” Scott told the group.

Brian Funk, Deputy Chief of Operations-Bus, said the program comes at an opportune time for the agency. Retirements and system expansion are creating more openings while fewer young people are pursuing skilled trades careers.

The program also supports the agency’s equity and diversity goals: Nearly 90 percent of the participants in the new group are people of color. There are nine women. 

“We know we need to do something different than drawing from traditional methods,” Funk said. “Thankfully, that’s why you’re here.”

   > Technicians in training celebrate early milestone

   > Technician training program gets national recognition

   > Aspiring Mechanic-Technicians build skills, confidence

   > Employment at the Council

Equity Light Rail METRO Blue Line METRO Green Line

Technicians in training celebrate early milestone in career path 

Posted by Drew Kerr | Monday, August 21, 2017 3:28:00 PM

Participants in the Metro Transit Technician training program were recognized at a completion ceremony on Thursday, Aug. 17, in Minneapolis.Chapman Templer was working at a local bike shop, unsure when or if he’d ever get promoted or earn more money. After two years at Tires Plus, Chee Vang was struggling to pinpoint his long-term goals. Jordan “Monk” Nicholson was writing comic books and looking for a full-time job after recently moving from Ohio to the Twin Cities.

They and a dozen other job seekers who entered the Metro Transit Technician training program last fall now have a much better idea of what their futures could hold. 

The second group to enter the industry-first job training program was celebrated last week at the Blue Line’s Operations & Maintenance Facility, where participants had spent the past several months studying electrical theory and learning from the Electro Mechanic Technicians they aspire to someday work beside.

That experience was accompanied by tutoring and empowerment training with instructors at Twin Cities RISE!, a Minneapolis-based non-profit that helps individuals overcome barriers to employment. 

Last week’s ceremony came at an early crossroads for the participants: on Monday, they began full-time, paid Metro Transit internships and classes at Hennepin Technical College, which has developed a new degree program centered around Rail Maintenance.

While lots of hard work remains, supporters said the confidence and skills the participants had already built needed to be recognized.

“I know this is just the beginning, but today definitely deserves to be celebrated,” said Vang, who spoke in front of around 100 friends, family and Metro Transit staff gathered at the event. “What we’ve learned is to celebrate all of the small victories.”

This is the second group to enter the training program, developed by Metro Transit in partnership with the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1005, Hennepin Technical College and Twin Cities RISE!

Participants from the first group are now entering their second year in college while interning in service garages and preparing to apply for full-time roles in Bus Maintenance. Applications for a third round of the program, again focused on Bus Maintenance, will be accepted later this year.

For participants like Vang, the goal is to land a career that promises stability, good benefits and opportunities to advance. For Metro Transit, the hope is to rejuvenate the ranks of technicians in bus and rail maintenance amid retirements and system growth.

Metro Transit will need to nearly double the number of technicians maintaining light-rail vehicles, signals, and systems to support planned extensions of the Green and Blue lines set to open in the years ahead. At the same time, around half of current technicians are above the age of 50 and beginning to approach retirement age. 

“We’re very excited now to be growing our own technicians,” Chief Operating Officer Vince Pellegrin said.

The program also supports Metro Transit's ongoing efforts to build diversity and provide access to opportunity.

Included in the most-recent group of participants was Ashley Williamson, who is on a path to becoming the first African American female to work in Rail Maintenance at Metro Transit.

“This is a major accomplishment to be able to inspire the next generation of people who are like me,” she said.

Electro Mechanic Technicians Resha Petit and Ben Engen said learning about participants’ histories is part of what made mentoring them so interesting and rewarding. They also appreciated the eagerness the participants showed throughout the 120 hours they spent working in the shop and studying with instructors.

“From day one, they came in here with a positive attitude,” Engen said. “It really made me look forward to coming to work on those days.”

Metro Transit light rail technician program

Participants in the Metro Transit Technician training program celebrated last week include, from left to right, front row: Calvin Hill, Allan Vang, Annette Kavanaugh, Chee Vang, Christopher Dudzinski, Thao Xiong, Toua Yang. Back row: Ronald “RJ” Abellard, Caitlin Wagner, Chapman Templer, Tenzin Kunga, Terence Ealy, Ashley Williamson, Jaime Trujillo, Jordan “Monk” Nicholson.

   > We're hiring! Learn more about career opportunities at Metro Transit

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