Tag Archives: coach operator training

Australians try out Omnitrans coach simulator

Omnitrans coach simulator

A team from Advanced Training Systems in Melbourne, Australia were given a tour of the Omnitrans training facilities today by Omnitrans Fleet Safety and Training Supervisor Don Frazier.  Advanced Training Systems is a safety company hired by corporations to mitigate hazards and reduce costs associated with these incidents, much like  our ATAP committee here at Omni.

The group was joined by Enrique Mar of Oceanside, the developer of our new, in-house coach simulator system, who treated them to a hands-on demonstration. Enrique set up several scenarios with various challenges for our visitors to overcome, from glare or rain on the windshield, jaywalking pedestrians, aggressive drivers, busy streets and obstacle courses.

Our Australian friends had a wonderful time and were extremely impressed with our facility and the simulator, which will be used to train Omnitrans coach operators and help prepare them for challenging driving situations.


A visit with Omnitrans student coach operators

Fleet Safety and Training Instructor Steve McClure and a student coach operator go through routes on the system map

Our latest group of student coach operators spent time this week both in the classroom and out in the bus yard, mastering the customer service and technical skills they will need before going out on the road. I stopped by the training room yesterday to visit the class to see how it was going so far.

“Probably the most challenging thing so far is having to learn all 26 routes within a couple of weeks. It’s rough, but we can do it,” says one of the students confidently. The rest of the class nods, smiling.

“Christina’s been teaching us to use key words to help us remember each route,” adds another student. “For example, I remember that the route on Baseline and 16th is the 67  because 1 + 6 = 7. For some reason that sticks for me.”

Fleet Safety and Training Instructor Christina Diaz has no doubt her charges will be ready to pass their final test. “They are on this.  They’re a great group and they’re absorbing information like sponges.”

Fleet Safety and Training Instructor Christina Diaz

She points out there’s a lot more more memorization involved in training that most people realize. Not only do student coach operators have to remember the routes, they also have to commit to memory all the radio codes and fare box codes as well. This means lots of study time at home after  class.

The trainers also ensure the students experience public transit firsthand from a rider perspective. They have them ride the system in addition to learning to drive it.

“Earlier this week we dropped each of them off in different parts of Montclair,” laughs Christine. “And they had to figure out what buses to take to get back to the San Bernardino office. They actually did very well.”

Many of the students have operated large vehicles before, which they point out can be both an advantage and a disadvantage. Sometimes it means there are bad habits they have to break–like how to handle the steering wheel.

One of the students demonstrates how NOT to hold the steering wheel.

“Hand positions are at 10-2, 9-3, or 8-4 and should be kept on the outside rim of the wheel,” explains Christina.

“And no palming or putting your hand in the crossbar,”says a young man in the back.”The wheel could spin suddenly and you could get hurt or cause an accident”

Christina grins proudly. “See? They’ve got this.”

The class laughs. They joke with each other, mimicking examples of bad drivers at the wheel. They are obviously a close knit crew and have already bonded over the past two weeks. All of them are looking forward to going out in the field with coach operator instructors next week and driving the routes.

As I get ready to leave, they wave and say goodbye.

“Make sure you’re here on graduation day to take our picture,” calls out one of the women. “You’re going to need a wide lens ’cause we are all going to graduate. We’re in this together!”

-Juno Kughler Carlson

Student coach operators clocking out at dispatch at the end of the day


Bridge Program graduates on fast track to success

Workforce Development Bridge Program

There are limited spots still available in our Bridge Program.
Click here to sign up for a class session.

Since early October, a free training program presented by Omnitrans has been encouraging people to bridge from to a new 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. The program includes an overview of coach operator duties as well as workplace professionalism and interview skills. At the end of each 5-day intensive training program, participants receive a certificate of completion which they can then bring with them when interviewing with regional transit agencies.

Participants in the Bridge Program tour the Omnitrans bus yard, photographer Juno Kughler Carlson

“This certificate indicates to regional transit agencies that the applicant has a basic understanding of coach operator duties and has developed the skills needed to be successful in a professional work environment,” explains Omnitrans Director of Internal Audit Dr. Samuel Gibbs, who heads the workforce development committee. “Bridge Program graduates have an incredible opportunity to pursue a lucrative, long-term transit career with great potential for advancement.”

Instructors Patricia Dorch and Henry Shields with Bridge Program participants, photographer Juno Kughler Carlson

Instructors Patricia Dorch and Henry Shields with Bridge Program participants

Many of the Bridge program participants are unemployed job seekers, while others are hoping to transition from their current position to a new career. They are all looking for ways to stand out from the crowd with a potential interviewer.

Shannon Kovitch will soon be retiring from the County of San Bernardino and would like to start a new career. He was surprised at how extensive the training was on just the first day and says he will use it to change the way he approaches potential jobs. “Just the portion on the resume—I realize now I’ve been doing it wrong. I’ve been using online examples and just submitting a generic resume with my application. The way Ms. Patricia formats the resume, the addition of a cover letter and certificates, and how everything is positioned within your portfolio is all new information for me.”

Bridge Program graduate Reginald Reid, photographer Juno Kughler Carlson

Bridge Program graduate Reginald Reid

Student Reginald Reid agrees.  “I’ve been going to school and working several side jobs. I was looking for a good career opportunity that I could qualify for. The first day I walked into class I was blown away by the information the instructors provided.  I actually felt a little childish when they pointed out all the different ways you can sell yourself for a position, because it made such perfect sense. Now I know what I can say to help seal the deal during an interview.”

Necktie demonstration - bridge program

Click here to view more photos from the Bridge Training Program!

Reginald was also impressed by how extensive the duties of a coach operator are. “I was very surprised,” he admits. “It’s interesting. There’s a lot more to it than just driving a bus.”

“I’m excited that we are introducing great new people to the industry,” says Omnitrans Fleet Safety & Training Supervisor and Workforce Development Committee Member Don Frazier. “I have worked in transit for almost forty years, and it’s been wonderful career for me. It’s going to add a lot to your life personally and economically, and you’re providing a viable service for the community. It’s a great opportunity for anybody to get into the Bridge Program.”

Bridge program graduates, photographer Juno Kughler Carlson

So far, two classes have graduated the Bridge Program, and already there have been  several successes:

Theresa Turner was excited to report that she was hired by a paratransit agency after she applied the “seal the deal” technique during her job interview.

Jaswant Singh told us that, thanks to the coach operator skills overviews presented in the course, he aced his test with LA Metro and is scheduled for an interview.

Haskell Ross credits the interview techniques he learned during the program in helping him land a job with a construction company. He was told that he made a great first impression!

– Juno Kughler Carlson

There are limited spots still available in our Bridge Program.
Click here to sign up for a class session.

Graduation Day - Bridge Program, photographer Juno Kughler Carlson


Bridge Program opens new opportunities for the unemployed

Henry Shields, photographer Juno Kughler Carlson

There are limited spots still available in our Bridge Program.
Click here to sign up for a class session.

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.”

Omnitrans bus, photographer Juno Kughler Carlson

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

There are limited spots still available in our Bridge Program.
Click here to sign up for a class session.

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Coach Operator career training classes back by popular demand!

Sign up below by September 22nd! Space is limited.

Thanks to a Workforce Development Grant, Omnitrans is introducing a series of FREE 1-week training programs to prepare participants for a career as a transit driver with a regional transit agency!

The selection process to become a coach operator can be very stringent, and initial testing has proven to be a big hurdle for many. The Bridge Training Program will teach various topics to provide candidates with the tools they need to successfully apply for and pass the first phase of the hiring process.

Program classes will be held Monday through Friday between 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. beginning in October.

Each program  will culminate with a job fair, where the graduates will have the opportunity to interview with several regional transit agencies.

A career in transit can be both lucrative and rewarding.
Possible benefits might include:$12 – 15 an hour average starting pay

  • Medical/Dental/Vision Plans
  • Retirement Program
  • Tuition Assistance Program
  • Paid Sick Leave
  • Paid Vacation
  • Paid Holidays
  • Employee Wellness Program

Sign up using the form below. Hurry, space is limited. Have questions?  Contact HR Specialist Denise Gibson at Denise.Gibson@omnitrans.org.