Another “first” for the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority’s Joint Workforce Investment (JWI) apprenticeship program with the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU). Two hundred seventy graduates of the program received Certificates of Achievement in Transportation from Mission College in Santa Clara. The participants who completed the 18-month JWI apprenticeship program at VTA received 18 college credits. VTA’s program was the first in the country to offer a bus operator apprenticeship, officially sanctioned by the U.S. Department of Labor, and it is the first in the country to offer such college credit, in its partnership with Mission College and ATU.
General Manager and CEO Nuria Fernandez addressed graduates at a November ceremony.
“We know we face many challenges in this industry,” Fernandez told the graduates, “And one of them is attracting and retaining highly skilled, dedicated workers to carry mobility service into the next several decades. We are bringing labor and management together to identify and implement solutions that upskill, reskill and build the knowledge and capabilities of our operators and maintenance workers,” she said.
Since the inception of this initiative in 2015, Mission College has supported the education and training leading to Transit Career certifications in the fields of Coach Operator, Overhead Line Worker, Track Worker, and Service Mechanic, which mirror the apprenticeships. Providing college credit in the program facilitates and encourages employees to advance in their careers. Each participant is assigned a more experienced mentor, which has allowed this program to become a national model for improving working conditions for transit workers, cutting down on absenteeism and reducing stress.
Earlier this year, ATU International President John Costa visited San Jose to get a closer look at the workings of the joint management-labor initiative. Subsequently, his International Union passed a resolution to support the creation and development of similar programs at transit agencies across the country. VTA’s JWI program serves as a national model and works with the Transportation Learning Center to help other agencies develop like initiatives.