Describe the training plan, including strategies and partners that will be deployed and resourced to help the agency transition existing workers to meet new skills requirements. The training plan may include in-house training, "train the trainer", registered apprenticeship, third-party training or similar. Identify any additional staff that will need to be recruited and hired.
The purpose of developing a training transition plan is to establish a pathway that will provide technicians with the skills needed to keep ZEBs, valued at about one million dollars each, working on a consistent basis to deliver passenger service and generate the environmental benefits they were constructed to achieve. The success of ZEBs is dependent in large part on a qualified staff of technicians achieved by first identifying their existing skill levels, establishing skills needed to make them proficient for maintaining ZEBs, and then providing training that will close any skills gaps.
While the steps needed to close the skills gap can be accomplished using a variety of scenarios, the very first step in this process should be to establish and engage a team of labor and management SMEs (L-M Team) committed to that goal. Participation by labor SMEs is essential for several reasons. A cooperative approach will likely cause technicians to be more accepting of, and accurate in, assessing their own skills when completing the skills gap survey, an essential tool in closing skill gaps. Technicians, as recipients of training, can also provide valuable feedback regarding training content and delivery methods effective at developing needed skills. Benefits to management include getting a workforce that is better prepared at keeping ZEBs operational and maximizing taxpayer investments. ZEBs are ineffective when sitting idle in the shop because technicians lack the skills to keep them operational.
The following is offered as an example of the sequence of steps that can be taken once the labor management team has been established. One such step should take place prior to procuring ZEBs, involving the joint labor-management team to offer input into the technical specifications, especially the training requirements. The report on recommended procurement language contains a suggested list of courses, related hours, requirements for PPE, and other training that agencies can adapt.
When it comes to providing the actual training, OEMs can be a good source if steps are taken as part of the request for proposal (RFP) process to ensure that the training is effective and will produce the desired results. Under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, recipients of funding are to set aside five percent of funding for ZEB projects in the Buses and Bus Facilities and Low or No Emission Competitive programs for workforce development, unless the recipient certifies a smaller percentage is necessary to carry out the training. The labor-management team should play a key role in determining how best to use those monies to acquire ZEB training that best accomplishes the goal of closing the skills gap with the understanding that in addition to the OEMs, other training providers and approaches identified below could supplement OEM training.
When establishing an effective training approach, the labor-management team should be aware that adult learning studies consistently show that about 70% of technical skills are best transferred by engaging students in the learning process through a combination of on-the-job exercises, computer simulations, training mockups, and advanced training delivery methods.
Apprenticeship programs are ideal in that the framework in association with DOL is based on the 70% learn-by-doing model. Apprentices need classroom instruction to learn underlying theory and principles. In classroom settings, instructors can and should use interactive learning and hands=on exercises as much as possible. Agencies have sometimes ordered a spare bus engine that can be wheeled into classrooms and used for demonstrations of principles and for practice by the apprentice. Brake boards and other learning aids can also promote active learning by the apprentice. Again, classroom instruction supports the majority of the time spent in the apprenticeship through on-the-job learning, where experienced technicians who are chosen to work as trainers and mentors transfer their knowledge and skills to the apprentice.
As described in Question 2, developing a skills gap survey on a joint labor-management basis becomes an important tool in assessing technician skills. Information on creating that survey is also included. Working together, the L-M Team should consider jointly developing two surveys, one to assess foundational E/E skills, and another for ZEBs using this example survey. Once finalized and approved by the L-M Team, the surveys can then be distributed to all technicians expected to work on ZEBs. Once completed, the findings of the skills gap surveys can be used to classify technicians by their results, prioritizing them by their strengths and weaknesses. As mentioned earlier, those that excel in specific job tasks can be considered as mentors. The Mentoring Guidebook offers information that transit agencies can use to establish mentoring as a training method with guidance, suggestions, and examples to implement or expand upon existing mentoring programs. Classifying technicians by their strengths and weaknesses in specific job areas allows agencies to target training as needed, thereby maximizing training resources.
Once training needs have been identified for specific technicians in specific skill areas, determining which training sources to use and how to prioritize the training is a next logical step in an agency’s transition plan. As indicated in Question 3, it is anticipated that every technician expected to work on ZEBs will require some level of training. Given that there will be an immediate need for qualified ZEB technicians to be ready when these vehicles arrive, training should first be focused on those technicians that scored the highest on the E/E and ZEB surveys, have electrical ASE certifications, have hybrid bus experience if applicable, and have ZEB experience if applicable. Next would be to direct training to those technicians that scored in the midrange of the ZEB skills gap survey followed by those scoring midrange in the E/E survey.
Which training sources to use depends on whether the agency has its own bus maintenance training department. Those with in-house training should be capable of immediately delivering E/E training to increase the number technicians with baseline electrical skills as a prerequisite for ZEB training. Results of the skills gap survey could be used to direct that training to close the gap in specific areas for specific technicians. For example, those needing instruction to properly use a digital multi-meter (DMM), a critical electrical diagnostic tool, could be placed in classes together.
A number of agencies have also developed productive training partnerships with local community colleges. These partnerships, also discussed under Question 5, work most effectively when the community college and the labor-management experts work together closely to ensure that the community college instructors understand the work, classroom components of the training cover areas directly useful for technicians, and the classroom work is integrated with on-the-job learning, and a range of interactive teaching methods and tools. One of the best practices below notes such a partnership. In addition, agencies with in-house training but lacking E/E materials along with those that have no training department should contact the TWC – by email or email@example.com or on our web page to be directed to those agencies known to have E/E materials, as well as other agencies that have developed community college partnerships.
Reference materials are available to help technicians correctly use a digital multimeter. Fluke, a major supplier of digital multimeters, also offers training on their website. Computer-based E/E troubleshooting training is available from Simutec. Hands-on electrical system training aids are available from Veejer. E/E training is also available from local community colleges and technical schools. However, before sending technicians to these schools the joint L-M Team should investigate the courses to determine if they are appropriate and effective.
Regarding ZEB-specific training, a good place to start is a three-part familiarization webinar on BEBs developed from 2020 to 2021. The webinar series is a good way to bring all technicians up to a basic level of understanding, make them feel more comfortable about the technology, and to prepare them for more detailed instruction that will follow. OEMs can also be a primary training partner. They built the equipment and are well suited to provide detailed ZEB training provided that the RFP procurement language mentioned above is used to ensure the training is comprehensive and effective.
In summary, the process to develop a training transition plan should be developed with a systematic approach that involves participation from both labor and management, that uses a skills gap survey to identify specific skill weaknesses or across-the-board training, and uses various training resources and partners as presented here to close the skills gap. The training should be directed into two areas, one to achieve a higher level of foundational E/E skills, the other to build ZEB specific skills.
Best Practice Examples:
AC Transit Workforce Training Program
- In its transition to a ZEB fleet, AC Transit in Oakland, California has developed comprehensive training programs for their bus operators, technicians, and other support employees. Bus operator training includes classroom and behind-the-wheel experiences, covering topics such as awareness of high-voltage systems, dash controls and indicator lights, specific start-up and shut-down procedures, techniques to maximize propulsion battery life, and defensive driving safety.
- For its technician programs, AC Transit has partnered with original equipment manufacturers to provide a combination of vendor and in-house training, which covers basic familiarization and safety, bus components, and advanced courses. Maintenance Trainers are members of ATU Local 192. Apprentices and journey-level technicians experience hands-on exercises through these courses. The agency has also created a Learning Management System that allows employees to access courses and class schedules, enroll, track training progress, and properly assess any skills gaps. It is also researching advanced training delivery methods to further engage students in the learning process.
- Working together with Stanford University, Precourt Institute for Energy, AC Transit has launched the Zero Emission Transit Bus Technology Analysis which specifically highlights workforce development.
- American Public Transportation Association and International Transportation Learning Center: Transit Apprenticeship at Pierce Transit: From the Ground Up
Summary: Pierce Transit is part of the transit apprenticeship initiative and has received technical assistance in structuring their apprenticeship program as well as financial assistance to reimburse some training costs.
- International Transportation Learning Center: Training for Transportation Technicians: Which Delivery Methods Work Best?
Summary: This paper explores the question “what is the most effective way to train transportation technicians?” The most common method is classroom lecture where instructors talk, and students just listen and desperately try to grasp all of the conceptual information delivered to them in rapid succession. At the other end of the spectrum is the ‘sink or swim’ approach where students are thrown into the job to work alongside veterans to pick up their good ... or bad methods. Somewhere in the middle is a better, blended approach, where classroom time is continually complemented by interactive hands-on demonstrations and followed by structured on-the-job training (OJT) and mentoring.
- Federal Transit Administration and National Transit Institute: Advancing Frontline Workforce Development Meeting: Synthesis
Summary: This report synthesizes findings from a two-day gathering of more than two dozen transit industry labor and management representatives who engaged in in-depth discussions on frontline workforce training needs across the U.S. The purpose of the meeting was to identify immediate, short-term, and long-term training needs for the frontline public transportation workforce in the U.S. and ways to connect apprenticeship and formal training programs to support these needs.
- U.S. Department of Education (OCTAE): A Guide for the Development of Career Pathways in Transportation
Summary: This Guide outlines the steps that transportation industry stakeholders can take to develop or expand Career Pathways to focus on the skills, competencies, and credentials needed for high-demand jobs in the transportation industry and its subsectors.
- SunLine Transit Agency: West Coast Center of Excellence in Zero Emission Technology
Summary: Funded by the FTA, this center serves to bring education to transit agencies looking to establish or increase their zero-emission fleets and technologies. Course Offerings: Leadership and Employee Relations; Zero Emission Bus Overview; Zero Emission Bus Operations; Zero Emission Bus Maintenance; Financial Management; Zero Emission Bus Procurement; Zero Emission Bus Policies and Regulations; Planning for ZEB Operation.
- Southern California Regional Transit Training Consortium: SCRTTC
Summary: The SCRTTC is a provider of training for the public transit industry located in Southern California. ZEB related course Offerings: Introduction and Troubleshooting Zero Emission Propulsion (ZEPS); EV Transit Bus Safety Awareness and Familiarization.
- International Transportation Learning Center: Battery Electric Bus Familiarization Webinars (for transit technicians)
Summary: ITLC presents three distance-based courses to help transit bus technicians gain fundamental understanding of battery electric bus (BEB) technology. In each live online session, experts from various BEB manufacturers presented on specific topics with over 400 participants attending. Session 1 - BEB Overview: Major components, principles of operations, PM requirements, battery management systems. Presented by Proterra, New Flyer, and Gillig. Session 2 - High Voltage Safety Considerations: BEB high voltage overview, risk and safety, worker protection, required skills. Presented by ENC, BYD, Novabus -Volvo Group, and Proterra. Session 3 - Battery Charging Approaches: BEB battery charging methods and considerations. Presented by CTE, Proterra, BYD, New Flyer. Recordings and related training materials for this course are available to the industry for free.