TWU and SEPTA Orient Students for Summer Transit Internship

Posted July 2013

Thirteen young people and their parents traveled through a massive Philadelphia rainstorm to get to the TWU 234 union hall Wednesday evening, June 26.  No one wanted to miss the orientation session for the fourth year of the SEPTA-TWU 234 summer internship program.  Students were selected from four Philadelphia High School Career and Technical Education programs.  The TWU-SEPTA Summer Internship runs for eight weeks, paying students for forty hours of work each week.  The students begin with classroom-based safety and background training, followed by summer-long shop assignments where,  working with TWU 234 mentors and SEPTA supervisors, they develop skills ranging from the technical—such as electrical, mechanical and body work—to the “soft skills” necessary for success in any workplace. 

All students went through a formal application and screening process.  They had to be referred by their teachers before they applied for the positions, and they then went through the SEPTA application process, which includes a drug screening and background check.  As internship hires, the students must follow the company attendance policy and work rules.  TWU Local 234 mentors and union reps are committed to help them succeed in the program, and SEPTA front line supervisors ensure that the students get experience in various aspects of rail vehicle and bus maintenance.

“You have been afforded an opportunity not many people your age are given,” noted John Johnson, Jr., 234’s President.  Both he and Executive Vice-President Andre’ Jones emphasized that this opportunity, which comes with tremendous responsibility, can create a pathway to a career at SEPTA, a career that provides a family sustaining wage, benefits, and continuing opportunities to move up the career ladder, to take college classes with tuition reimbursement, and to become role models within their communities.  Last year, two students from the program entered the bus mechanic apprenticeship.  Noting that SEPTA shares the passion TWU has for this program, Dan Amspacher, SEPTA’s Director of Human Resources, highlighted the rigorous screening and hiring process used to choose the students and underscored the serious nature of the SEPTA job, as well as the opportunities and the support that would be provided to participants by SEPTA and TWU. 

TWU Apprenticeship Coordinator Alex Gatta, TWU’s point person for the program and mentor coordinator, then walked the students through their summer assignments and program details.  The meeting concluded with Ronit Caplan of Philadelphia Academies exhorting students to take advantage of this opportunity and thanking parents for supporting their children throughout the program, and with Steven Herring Transportation Industry Development Specialist for the Philadelphia Schools noting that this is one of the best programs in the country, and that students who perform well and learn from their mentors can ultimately become mentors for others. 

The photo above, taken by Stuart Bass of Keystone Development Partnership, shows the participants and their proud parents, along with orientation speakers.  The Keystone Development Partnership worked with SEPTA and TWU Local 234 to partner with the Philadelphia Academies and the Philadelphia School district to start the Internship.  This job shadowing program offers students real job experience that is structured and coordinated with their school experience.  As one participant’s mother said, “I think I am even more excited than he is.  What a great opportunity; this is awesome!”

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