Being a bus operator – especially in snowy Minnesota – takes a lot of skill.
To recognize individuals who master the craft, newly hired Metro Transit bus operators can elect to earn a journeyworker certificate through the Bus Operator Apprenticeship Program, one of the few programs of its kind nationally.
The registered apprenticeship program, a partnership between Metro Transit and the ATU Local 1005, combines instructor-led workshops, on-the-job training, and mentorships with more experienced operators.
The Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry recognizes and supports the program alongside programs for plumbers, welders and other skilled trades.
Since the Bus Operator Apprenticeship Program began five years ago, more than 200 Metro Transit bus operators have earned their journeyworker certificates. The latest group to do so was recognized at a graduation event in October, where mentors and other supporters applauded operators for successfully completing the two-year program.
Alec Johnson, who has helped lead the apprenticeship program, told the group of 30 graduates their efforts were another step toward recognizing operators as highly skilled professionals.
“The days of thinking of this as a low-skill job are over,” Johnson said. “We all know how hard this job is.”
Robert Fort’e, who joined Metro Transit in late 2021, said earning his journeyworker certificate was a “wonderful feeling.”
He especially appreciated having the support of mentors, who helped him through some initial uncertainties and responded to text messages even when he reached out late at night.
“The mentors helped me learn some things that prepared me for the real world,” Fort’e said. “It’s not just all textbooks, that’s for sure.”
And while it’s the mentees who earn journeyworker certificates, mentors say they also benefit from participating in the program. "While I'm a mentor who can help my mentees navigate a new career, we also learn from them through the process and build community," said mentor Betsy Anderson, a seven-year bus operator.
To keep that spirit alive, many of the new graduates are now looking forward to becoming mentors themselves.
"I came to Metro Transit from another bus company because of this program," Operator Samson Desu said. "Now I want to become a mentor and help others."
View more photos from the October 26 Bus Operator Apprenticeship Program graduation
Bus operator applications are being accepted on an ongoing basis. No experience is necessary to apply. To learn more, visit metrotransit.org/drive.