With so many in California struggling to find employment, those without an educational degree or technical skill are increasingly finding themselves at a disadvantage.
Now Omnitrans is offering a free training program to encourage people to pursue a career in public transit. Funded by a Workforce Development Grant, the Bridge Program is a series of classes that introduces participants to the transit industry and teaches them how to apply for and successfully secure jobs as coach operators. Each 1-week intensive training program culminates with a job fair where the participants can meet with and submit applications to several different regional transit agencies.
Bridge Program instructor Henry Shields was formerly the Fleet Safety and Training Supervisor for Omnitrans before his retirement in 2011. He believes the program provides a unique opportunity for those who are looking for a lucrative career with long-term job stability.
“Most people never consider a career in transit,” Shields points out frankly. “They aren’t aware of the opportunities that are open to them. Coach operator positions offer paid training, competitive salaries, great benefits and good job security. You don’t have to have a degree or a trade skill. If you have a positive attitude, a strong work ethic and a willingness to learn, then you have the ability to succeed in this field.”
Shields can vouch for this from his own firsthand experience. When he received his honorable discharge from the Marine Corps in 1990, he was surprised at how difficult it was for him to find a civilian job. As a Master Sergeant he had years of experience as a respected training instructor and recruiter, but without a degree, trade or technical skill no one would consider him for a job. Finally he applied for a coach operator position at Omnitrans and began what became a 21 year career in the transportation industry. Thanks to the tuition reimbursement program Omnitrans offers its employees, he was also able to obtain a college degree in Business Management.
“It was one of the best decisions I ever made,” says Shields. “Being able to share the same opportunity with others through the Bridge Program means a lot to me. It has the potential to completely change lives. It also generates public interest in transit as a career path and serves as a valuable recruitment tool for regional agencies.”
Participants in the 1-week Bridge Program will be given a broad overview of the transit industry and the role of the coach operator within the transit system. They will learn about transit maps and schedules, how to prepare a coach for service, how to drive a route, how to deal with difficult people, and how to handle emergencies. They will have the opportunity to experience firsthand what it feels like to drive a coach, thanks to a state-of-the-art virtual reality coach simulator. The participants will also take a short field trip on a regular coach to familiarize themselves with the passenger experience.
“The course is designed to put people at ease and give them the confidence that they can do this,” explains Shields. “It gives them a good orientation to the transit industry and prepares them for the job application process, which can be pretty stringent. Applicants must typically pass an interactive written test, a personal interview, a physical exam, and a background check before even being considered for a coach operator position. The knowledge and skills our participants gain through the Bridge Program gives them a deeper understanding of what’s required of coach operators and better equips them to pursue a career in transit.”
For more information on the Bridge Program please contact Henry.Shields@omnitrans.org
The Bridge Program is a regional transit career opportunity sponsored by the Omnitrans Workforce Development Committee. Members from L to R: Treasury Manager Maurice Mansion, Fleet Safety and Training Supervisor Don Frazier, HR and Safety and Security Director Marjorie Ewing, Director of Internal Audit Services Samuel Gibbs, Operations Director Diane Caldera, HR Specialist Denise Gibson, Bridge Program Assistant Instructor Patricia Dorch, Bridge Program Instructor Henry Shields.
- Juno Kughler Carlson
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