National Academies Press: OpenBook

Establishing a National Transit Industry Rail Vehicle Technician Qualification Program— Building for Success (2014)

Chapter:Chapter 5 - Moving Forward Implementing Systems of Qualification

« Previous: Chapter 4 - Current Local Practices in Rail Car Training and Qualification and National Program Piloting Experience
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 5 - Moving Forward Implementing Systems of Qualification." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2014. Establishing a National Transit Industry Rail Vehicle Technician Qualification Program— Building for Success. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22346.
Page 56
Suggested Citation:"Chapter 5 - Moving Forward Implementing Systems of Qualification." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2014. Establishing a National Transit Industry Rail Vehicle Technician Qualification Program— Building for Success. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22346.
Page 57
Suggested Citation:"Chapter 5 - Moving Forward Implementing Systems of Qualification." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2014. Establishing a National Transit Industry Rail Vehicle Technician Qualification Program— Building for Success. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22346.
Page 58
Suggested Citation:"Chapter 5 - Moving Forward Implementing Systems of Qualification." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2014. Establishing a National Transit Industry Rail Vehicle Technician Qualification Program— Building for Success. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22346.

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55 Moving Forward—Implementing Systems of Qualification The completion of TCRP Project E-07 is not the end of, but rather an important milestone along, the transit industry’s road to an effective system of qualification for rail vehicle maintenance technicians. This opportunity comes at a time of great need for skills development in the transit industry— to backfill positions after pending retirements and to develop new positions with the continuing expansion of transit rail. As part of an interrelated suite of ongoing national training initiatives in the transit industry, the results of this project will serve as a pathfinder for the emerging system of frontline technical qualification that cuts across many transit occupa- tions with urgent training requirements. The road forward involves interactive initiatives for (1) imple- menting the framework of qualification that is now available at the local level and (2) developing additional components of the system of qualification at the national level. These two sets of activities are designed to be mutually reinforcing. Local Implementation of the New Framework for Qualification Local implementation of the new national training resources within transit systems across the country is based on custom- izing the national resources created by TCRP Project E-07 and related initiatives. To be useful locally, the framework of new national resources has to be customized to create a good fit with local conditions—the baseline of previously existing training practices and resources, instructor development, mentoring, and coordination of classroom and on-the-job training. Fig- ure 26 (previously presented as Figure 7 in Chapter 1) shows the critical national resources for the system of qualification for rail vehicle technicians in the left column and their local implementation in the right column. The recognition of this entire structure of qualification by the U.S. Department of Labor in June 2013 as a new registered national apprenticeship is raising awareness of the new quali- fication system within the transit industry. The combination of components in this approved apprenticeship is one of the most comprehensive within the American framework of technicians’ apprenticeship. The rail car apprenticeship com- bines national training standards and curriculum; a national training committee; in-depth tools for building effective mentoring and on-the-job training; a CMS for tracking the qualification experience of technicians across the industry; and a jointly developed set of assessments, both written and hands-on, to confirm that technicians have developed the necessary knowledge and skills. This entire framework and its components form the basis of the national apprentice- ship now recognized by the U.S. Department of Labor. All of this significantly advances standards-based, partnership- centered, quality training for frontline transit technicians in general. Recognition by the U.S. Department of Labor drives home the idea that there is a coherent system of training that transit agencies need to implement. With these resources now available, individual transit sys- tems can move forward in making this system the new norm in the industry. As detailed in Chapter 4, a number of agencies represented on the TCRP Project E-07 panel and the National Rail Vehicle Training Standards Committee have already begun local implementation of key parts of the qualification system. The experience at the locations piloting the frame- work and conducting pilot hands-on and written assessments highlighted the gaps between their current practice and the potential of the qualification system. As agencies expand and upgrade their training systems, they will find that the jointly developed hands-on and written assessments can help them evaluate the effectiveness of their training programs and identify areas that need further improvement. The projected need to hire and train the equivalent of 88 percent of today’s total transit industry workforce over the next 10 years will continue to drive transit leaders toward more effective training solutions and more cost-effective solutions that draw on industrywide resources. The system of qualifi- cation is intended to provide high-quality, cost-effective, and C H A P T E R 5

56 consistent solutions for meeting transit’s workforce challenge over the next decade and beyond. As more new technicians are hired and need to be trained, more transit systems should rec- ognize the benefits of this systems-based solution. It is clear that no transit agencies are prepared to hire and train the num- bers of new technicians they will need over the next decade. Raising these new hires to consistently high levels of skill to produce reliable, efficient, and safe operations will require uti- lizing quality training systems—systems that can most effec- tively be created by implementing the resources of the national system of qualification. Registering and Expanding Apprenticeships and Standards-Based Training An early step that the industry can take toward imple- menting this new system is for existing local transit rail car apprenticeships to align themselves with the new framework for apprenticeship developed by this project. Local rail car apprenticeships already exist in seven U.S. transit systems— Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA), NYCT, Portland’s Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District (TriMet), Denver Regional Transportation District (RTD), LACMTA, New Jersey Transit (light rail), and Pitts- burgh’s Port Authority Transit system. Project panel or National Rail Vehicle Training Standards Committee members from most of these locations have expressed an interest in working to align their existing apprenticeships and register them within the new national framework, hoping to take advantage of the opportunity to improve their training systems and access potential college credit. These agencies and their unions can further strengthen their training programs by aligning them with the national apprenticeship and utilizing the resources of the new national system of qualification. Developing altogether new rail car apprenticeships utiliz- ing the resources of this project offers an attractive option for transit systems currently without an apprenticeship. Even before the completion of TCRP Project E-07, Greater Cleve- land RTA and ATU Local 268 started the process of building a new rail car apprenticeship. Both RTA and the union rec- ognized that they needed to do much more to prepare their next generation of rail car technicians, and they agreed that working together to build an apprenticeship based on the Figure 26. Rail vehicle national and local qualification system.

57 new national system of qualification was the most effective path they could follow. A handful of other transit systems are considering similar upgrades to their rail car training programs, utilizing the resources of the TCRP Project E-07 system and the new framework for apprenticeship. Philadel- phia’s SEPTA has expressed a desire to register their existing rail car training program as an apprenticeship with Pennsyl- vania’s state office of apprenticeship, utilizing apprenticeship language negotiated in their collective bargaining agreement several years earlier. Other agencies, such as UTA, are upgrad- ing their rail car training programs to align more closely with the overall system of qualification, thus moving closer to the possibility of a formally registered apprenticeship. Still other locations across the transit industry are start- ing to analyze the challenges of impending retirements, rail system expansion, and advancing technologies. Given the workforce realities facing them, they will have to find cost- effective ways to raise the quality of their rail car training. They can continue on transit’s traditional path, where each location is forced to figure it all out for themselves, or they can approach this challenge through a comprehensive and systematic upgrade of their frontline workforce training in cooperation with the rest of the industry. Developing the Qualification System and Supporting Local Implementation: Proposed Rail Car Training Consortium Beyond simple local implementation, a way to move forward is for a group of agencies and local unions to come together in a new consortium to advance the system’s rail car technician qualification while also increasing their local capacity to imple- ment quality training systems. A proposed rail car consortium now under consideration would do just that, with an initial focus on training trainers and mentors and supporting imple- mentation of this project’s system of qualification. Fundamentally, this consortium proposal—discussed among transit leaders across the industry in late 2013 and early 2014—is a continuation of the cross-location work on rail car training undertaken in TCRP Project E-07. More broadly, the consortium would build on the precursor effort (2006–2009) to develop national training committees and national training standards for five technical occupations, with funding support from FTA and the U.S. Department of Labor. The proposed rail car training consortium is also closely related to transit’s other recent industrywide joint training consortia now underway for elevator-escalator technicians and signals technicians. Both of these existing consortia are devel- oping specialized train-the-trainer programs for their occu- pations, recognizing the importance of both quality training delivery and local leadership in building effective training pro- grams. Not coincidentally, the elevator-escalator and signals consortia both adopted the mentor training framework devel- oped for rail vehicle technicians under TCRP Project E-07 for use in their occupations. Many transit leaders have expressed interest in a consortium aimed in the first instance at improving the capabilities of tran- sit rail car trainers as well as frontline mentors. They see train- the-trainer programs as an area of urgent need in the transit industry, particularly for rail car trainers. Like other transit technical instructors, most rail car trainers are excellent techni- cians who have been promoted to training responsibilities but without any specific preparation in training systems, training design, or training delivery. These instructors’ version of class- room training too often consists of reading aloud the text of PowerPoint slides projected on a screen, with no opportunity for hands-on exercises and no integration of classroom lessons with on-the-job learning. If these instructors were not exposed to mentoring as they came up years ago, they are unlikely to develop mentoring or structured on-the-job learning. The train-the-trainer and mentor training focus in the proposed consortium will be designed to contribute broadly to quality training delivery. It will go far beyond convey- ing generic guidelines on effective instructional communi- cation to put trainers and mentors in position to utilize all the resources in the comprehensive system of qualification. Thoroughly prepared trainers will understand learning sys- tems from the classroom, the lab on-the-job experience with mentors, along with apprenticeship and credential manage- ment. Likewise, well-prepared mentors will be able to con- nect each segment of on-the-job learning with the material in the training standards, curriculum, and classroom training. By aiming first at developing instructors and mentors, the proposed rail car training consortium will also be accelerat- ing local implementation of the qualification system and its components. Knowledgeable training staff can partner with well-prepared mentors as internal advocates for quality train- ing. Together, they can form the core of local training part- nerships, providing internal leadership for implementation of the qualification system. Developing this internal train- ing capacity will support the second major goal of the rail car consortium: to further expand local implementation of the system of qualification. Other projected activities in the consortium include broader use of the TCRP Project E-07 curriculum and progressions; sharing courseware and on- the-job resources across locations; partnering with career and technical education and training programs; expanding use of the rail vehicle assessments in a “building for success” model, to confirm current skill sets and identify training targets; and identifying priorities and opportunities for further course- ware development, particularly at the 200 and 300 levels. In a relatively new development, OEMs are emerging as natural stakeholders in these training development con- sortia. OEMs have a powerful interest in making sure that their equipment is properly and safely maintained in public

58 transportation operations. In addition, OEMs generally pro- vide initial training when they deliver new equipment, but— as shown in Chapter 4—OEMs such as rail car manufacturers are generally not training specialists, and most of the training they deliver is perceived to be only fair or poor in effectiveness by their transit customers. The transit training consortia for elevator-escalator and signals technicians have increasingly developed the natural productive partnership among transit agencies, unions, and OEMs, setting an example that can be followed by the proposed rail car training consortium. Expanding Resources for Frontline Workforce Qualification Across the timeframe of TCRP Project E-07, some transit chief executive officers have come to recognize that they have to allocate resources for meeting the training challenges facing their organizations. Local union presidents generally agree. In effect, these leaders are saying that they can’t afford to wait for hypothetical future resources to become available. Given the demands facing their agencies due to retirements, expansion, and new technology, these leaders have to rearrange their bud- get and program priorities to ensure that their agencies can continue to provide safe, reliable service in transit rail. For those transit leaders and their agencies, the resources developed under TCRP Project E-07, Establishing a National Transit Industry Rail Vehicle Technician Qualification Program—Building for Success, offer high-quality, low-cost solutions to help meet training and budgetary challenges. Postscript: Career Pathways for Tomorrow’s Transit Technicians This project has focused on qualification systems for today’s incumbent transit technicians and new hires into the indus- try. It is important to remember, however, that the pipeline of qualified applicants for entry-level technical positions is also critically important for the industry’s ability to develop a fully qualified technical workforce. Expanded career pathways from the K-12 education system and community and technical col- leges are strongly connected to the presence of effective quali- fication systems for workers once they are hired. Particularly for young people who are not headed straight to a four-year college after high school, having a clear view and connection to an explicit system of qualification with work-based learning can greatly increase their chances of staying in school. A clear line of sight to a good job and a good career opportunity can underscore for them the value of learning to show up every day, working well with others, and mastering the fundamen- tals of math, science, and communications. TCRP Project E-07 directly addresses career ladder training for new hires and incumbents rather than building the career pipeline for future transit employees. Yet, there are inevitably many strong connections between effective pre-employment education, especially through career and technical education programs and the industry’s ability to attract qualified young applicants for frontline technical jobs. Many agencies report that they cannot find qualified young applicants, yet they urgently need them. With accelerating retirements and the expansion of rail transit, agencies are running out of retirees they can hire from other transit systems or railroads to fill their vacancies. Conversely, 40 percent of young people who are not headed straight to a four-year college after high school drop out and don’t graduate. These students are typically not successfully engaged by education programs that emphasize theory-first learning rather than hands-on learning in a quixotic effort to prepare all students for four-year colleges—something that only 30 percent of them will achieve. Partnering transit sys- tems with schools and extending the elements of a proven system of qualification toward a viable education pathway for young people is an approach that can pay major dividends for transit agencies and the communities that they serve.

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TRB’s Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) Report 170: Establishing a National Transit Industry Rail Vehicle Technician Qualification Program—Building for Success describes a system of qualification that has been developed for rail vehicle technicians. This qualification system is available for implementation through the Transportation Learning Center.

The program integrates national training standards, progressive classroom curricula and introductory courseware, on-the-job learning modules, an apprenticeship framework that combines well-designed sequences of learning, mentoring to support learners, and coordination of classroom and on-the-job learning. The qualification system also includes written and hands-on certification assessments to confirm that technicians have the practical knowledge and skills required to perform their jobs at the highest level of expertise.

Supplemental information to the report is found in Appendices A-D and Appendices E-P.

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