Question 6

Indicate the role training resources will play in supporting the recruitment, training and development of new workers, and what steps are being taken to ensure non-displacement of the existing workforce.

Best Practices:

It is well-documented that the transit maintenance workforce is older than the general working population. Agencies are and will be facing retirements and, therefore, will need to hire new workers during the transition to ZEBs. Several major and interrelated concerns should be addressed:

  • Agencies should ensure that the new technology does not displace current workers;
  • New workers should learn the new technology;
  • Transit agencies should be perceived as a source for good, family-supporting jobs; and
  • Transit agencies should consider addressing diversity, equity, and inclusion, particularly in the ranks of skilled maintenance workers.

Regarding the first concern, training for current workers so that they become proficient on ZEBs provides the primary means for agencies to ensure that no displacement occurs. The methods for determining what training is needed, ideas on how to begin planning and implementing a training program for incumbent workers, best practice examples, and resources are covered extensively elsewhere on these webpages.

The full transition to a ZEB fleet will take time. During that transition, agencies will continue to need to maintain a legacy fleet of diesel, hybrid and CNG buses.  For some technicians approaching retirement, servicing that legacy fleet may be their primary job. Even if that is the case, many of these technicians many need extensive training on E/E systems that are pervasive on these older buses.  The small group of electronic specialists that have routinely done that work on multiplexing and other advanced electronic systems is going to be occupied with new ZEB fleets. All workers in the garages will also need training and orientation on high voltage safety.

One approach that several agencies have found helpful in training both incumbent workers and new hires is the development of a joint apprenticeship program. The Section listed in Question 1 provides more detail and the rationale for joint apprenticeship as a training method that combines technical training in the classroom with structured on-the-job learning. Bus technician apprenticeship programs cover all aspects of maintaining a bus, not just the new zero emission technologies. 

These high-quality apprenticeship programs help ensure the entire workforce has the training needed to adapt well to new technologies.  First, the skills gap in E/E skills presents an enormous obstacle in learning how to work on any ZEB.  Apprenticeship programs cover basic electrical and electronic skills, and no one graduates from the apprenticeship without basic competencies in E/E skills.  These skills may atrophy when the technician does not use them every day.  Refreshing the E/E skills requires quite a bit less training than starting from a very low level of familiarity.  Second, good apprenticeship programs use skilled workers as mentors.  The mentor oversees the on-the-job learning by the apprentice and, working with the apprentice and a supervisor, certifies that the apprentice can capably perform the work.  That activity instills a culture of learning on the shop floor.  Technicians share ideas and come together for problem solving more easily because of their ongoing work with the apprentices.  This approach to training works equally well with incumbent workers and new hires.

The full competency-based framework for bus maintenance apprenticeship covers all areas and defines skills down to a learning objective level. As noted previously, there is a need to build up this framework to cover the full range of ZEB competencies; the existing framework includes E/E, hybrid buses, and initial elements of a ZEB training standard.

As agencies across the country establish comprehensive workforce development plans and training materials for the incumbent workforce, it is also clear, as noted at the beginning of this section, that effective outreach will be needed to fill positions created by retirements.  This challenge creates opportunities to recruit directly from the communities’ transit serves, especially among underrepresented and disadvantaged groups, and, in doing so, to improve and strengthen diversity, equity and inclusion in the transit workforce, especially among the ranks of skilled technicians.

This section provides several examples of best practices, and many more cases and additional information can be found in materials in the Additional Resources section and around the country.  These resources emphasize a range of lessons learned, including the importance of partnerships with local education institutions, such as CTE high schools and community colleges, along with community-based workforce development organizations and state and local Workforce Investment Boards. A set of these resources note effective techniques and mechanisms for targeted outreach to women.

In integrating targeted outreach into a workforce development plan, it is important to consider the current workforce itself as a central resource.  A number of agencies have strengthened and diversified their technical workforce through programs offering in-house training programs for workers in other job categories who want to move into skilled technician positions.  In addition, industry experience has demonstrated that some of the most effective recruiters are current workers who know the work and come from the communities that agencies are targeting. Finally, incumbent workers’ experience and skills make them excellent candidates to be mentors for those who are newly hired. 

The TWC can provide technical assistance to transit agencies in exploring various ways to build these programs and connect them with agencies that have had success in this area.

Best Practices Examples:

Joint Workforce Investment – ATU Local 265 and Valley Transit Authority

  • For a comprehensive look at how to deal with goals of advancing current workers, providing opportunity to new entrants, and promoting greater equity in the workforce, look toward the Joint Workforce Investment (JWI), an initiative of ATU Local 265 and Valley Transit Authority in San Jose, California. Started initially in 2005 to address the difficulty of recruiting and retaining bus operators, JWI began with the principle that labor and management needed to work together to address the problem. Developing a mentoring system for experienced bus operators to work with new entrants proved to be a very effective first step. That mentoring program grew into a full apprenticeship. 
  • JWI also developed an apprenticeship for bus maintenance. VTA had difficulty hiring enough technicians; to get hired, an applicant needed technical knowledge and at least two years of experience as a technician. Meanwhile, service workers fueling and cleaning the buses felt stuck in dead-end jobs. A rigorous program of technical instruction and on-the-job learning offered a way up for these service workers, many of them men and women of color, who received strong support from instructors, mentors, and work colleagues. As one successful apprentice noted, ten started the class; ten were determined to graduate and did so. 
  • JWI established an alliance with Mission College offered community college credit for both technician and operator apprentices who completed technical instruction. The apprenticeship program has expanded and now includes training for track workers and overhead line workers. 

TWU Local 100 and New York City Transit Training and Upgrading Fund – Creating Upskilling and New Career Pathway Opportunities for Incumbent Workers

  • New York City Transit and Transport Workers Union Local 100 have a collectively-bargained Training and Upgrading Fund (TUF) that has provided more than 38,000 training opportunities since it was established in 2004. In its commitment to career ladder opportunities for incumbent workers, TUF established an Upward Advancement Program, designed for members who do not have the educational background to go directly into their apprenticeship programs. The twenty participants admitted each year are paid their full forty-hours of wages while being released from duty on a full- time basis to attend a trade school selected by the Fund for a period of six months.
  • In another initiative detailed in the ITLC’s Green Jobs Training Report (in Question 7 Resources), TUF obtained local Green Jobs funding and partnered with partnered with the Center for Sustainable Energy at Bronx Community College to train incumbent NYCT employees in new and needed skills, including photovoltaics (maintaining solar powered panels to generate electricity for use by NYCT) and installation and maintenance of fiber optics. Under the same funding, NYCT conducted a series of skills gap analyses indicating other areas where training is needed, and continued to work with join labor-management training committees on how to continue to professionalize transit worker positions and ensure ongoing delivery of new training programs for continuing skills upgrading.

FTA Innovative Workforce Development Grant Projects – Workforce Development and Community College Partnerships at BART and GCRTA

  • FTA Innovative Workforce Development Grants have helped to produce programs that reached out to and trained new workers for existing job openings. Both Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) and Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (GCRTA) were grappling with the challenges of filling open positions in higher-level electrical, mechanical, and electronic repair positions; GCRTA’s program also targeted operators and some management positions. Both agencies developed workforce solutions that involved outreach and support partnerships that targeted diverse, underrepresented, and disadvantaged communities; BART partnered with Workforce Investment Boards, while GCRTA worked with local community-based workforce development programs. In addition, local community college partnerships and courses played a key role in the technical training. 
  • Each program had unique characteristics. For example, BART worked with their community college on a strong academic bridge course, with the college also providing additional counseling and academic support services. GCRTA worked with its union, ATU Local 268, on agreements that ensured new workers would not compete for positions appropriate for current employees, including an MOU on assistant and trainee categories. GCRTA and Local 268 also negotiated an agreement that the union would provide mentors and supervisors for interns, with additional training pay.

Introducing Youth to American Infrastructure Programs

  • Introducing American Youth to Infrastructure + (Iyai+) partners with community colleges, CTE high schools, and employers and unions from public transportation and other infrastructure sectors to reach out to young people from underrepresented and disadvantaged communities. Programs focus on career awareness, career opportunities, and the direct connections between infrastructure and the communities.
  • IYAI+ has run summer programs in partnership with high schools and community colleges in Washington, D.C., Chicago, and California. Young people are introduced the various fields and connected with leaders and employers at a range of area agencies and unions. As part of this interactive program, participants have gone on field trips to transit and other locations (except during the virtual programs designed during the pandemic), are trained in video techniques, and produce a final video project relating to their experiences and knowledge about infrastructure and community.

Additional Resources:


  • TCRP: Maintenance Staffing Calculator;
    Maintenance Staffing Calculator Maintenance Staffing Calculator User Guide

    Summary: MS Excel-based Maintenance Staffing Calculator produced along with TCRP Report 184. The tool is designed to help managers of transit agencies of any size to: (1) break down staff by location or sub-fleet; (2) adjust raw employee numbers to full-time equivalents and available productive hours using information on current technician staffing, other employees contributing to maintenance, breaks, vacations, and shift information; (3) calculate preventive maintenance, core maintenance, and unscheduled maintenance task hours required by sub-fleet; (4) calculate heavy maintenance and repair hours required; (5) model effects on staffing of changes to fleet composition or usage; (6) model effects on staffing of changes to maintenance times or intervals, accounting for overtime required; and (7) compare results to a group of peer agencies.


  • Emma Coalition: The Future Is Now: Workforce Opportunities And The Coming TIDE. A Call To Action.
    Summary: This report provides a practical roadmap on how employers, industries, communities, educators, and government can work together to prepare the workforce for the coming technology-induced shockwaves while taking full advantage of the opportunities that will be created. The focus is on automation but many of the recommended actions are applicable to ZEB transition.
  • APTA: Transit Workforce Readiness Guide
    Summary: A highly interactive and easy-to-use online resource for executives and their staff to assist organizations in building a more diverse talent pipeline by attracting high school students, especially those coming from underserved communities, into entry-level transit positions.
  • TCRP: Attracting, Retaining, and Advancing Women in Transit
    Summary: “TCRP Synthesis 147: Attracting, Retaining, and Advancing Women in Transit” explores the strategies that have been deployed in transit and other related industries in order to attract, retain, and advance women in a variety of roles.



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