Workforce development is an increasingly crucial component of the alternative fuel industry as technologies continue to evolve and the need for skilled workers grows. Many recent federal funding opportunities seek to create domestic energy and supply chain jobs with good pay, benefits, predictable schedules, and assurances that workers will have a free and fair chance to join or form a union. A great example of local investment in an education and training program is Metro Transit’s Bus Mechanic Technician Apprenticeship program. This recently launched program offers a unique opportunity for individuals with no prior experience or technical degree to become a bus technician at Metro Transit, which was an earlier leader in biodiesel adoption and has recently been adding electric buses to their fleet.
The 6,000-hour, three-year workforce development program (which started with its first cohort in January 2023) provides hands-on training and ongoing professional development, equipping participants with essential skills and knowledge to excel in the field. Jeremiah Riter, Assistant Director of Technical Support at Metro Transit, explained that the program “is in its infancy, and we’re hoping to grow it. It started this year; each cohort is made up of up to fourteen individuals, starting with minimal mechanical skills and working into a journey level technician.” Riter continued that Metro Transit sees the apprenticeship program as being “one of our best recruitment tools for technicians and a pathway for internal employees to upskill as well.”
Abel Mumbi, Director of Bus Maintenance, added that “a great opportunity this program presents is that from the beginning, the apprentices are full-time employees— benefitted, paid, so they’re paid to do school, and they are also paid to be able to do their hands-on training as well.” With their full-time employee status, trainees become union members upon starting the program and earn a salary and health benefits throughout their apprenticeship. The program provides participants with continuous support throughout their journey, including staff-led learning and mentorship, as well as an annual tool reimbursement stipend.
In addition to the great benefits, one notable aspect of this program is its focus on training participants to work on a variety of bus types, including diesel, hybrid, and electric buses. As the transportation industry continues to shift towards more sustainable solutions, the demand for skilled technicians who can work on electric buses is on the rise. The apprenticeship program ensures that individuals receive specialized training in this area, preparing them for future opportunities in an ever-evolving industry.
Metro Transit has a history of being a leader in alternative fuel usage. Since 2009, they have been using biodiesel in a portion of buses. The agency has a “phased, deliberate approach” to implementing electric buses, explained Mumbi, “most of the technology has improved and is changing rapidly.” Carrie Desmond, Manager of Electric Bus Infrastructure, noted that Metro Transit “adopted our first zero-emission bus transition plan in February 2022…we set a goal for the first five years of the plan that at least 20% of our 40 foot bus replacements will be electric.” In response to the evolving technology, the Bus Mechanic Technician Apprenticeship program embedded electric bus training into the curriculum, ensuring trainees are equipped to maintain and service electric and hybrid electric buses right from the start of their careers.
Through a combination of classroom instruction and practical experience, participants in this apprenticeship program gain valuable insights into bus maintenance and repair techniques. “In the past, [bus mechanic] trainees would go to school for 8 hours, they’d intern for 8 hours,” Desmond explained, “now we’re combining that all into one onsite and in-house.”
With the introduction of the Bus Mechanic Technician Apprenticeship program, everything is now merged into one convenient location at the North Loop Training Center, which opened in March 2023. It is a brand-new, modern facility featuring a unique setup with classroom space integrated into the garage. This design allows trainees to transition from classroom instruction to direct, practical work. Apprentices spend two years alternating between the classroom and hands-on mentorship time. In their third year, they become independent technicians while still receiving feedback from their mentors.
By enrolling in Metro Transit’s Bus Mechanic Apprenticeship program individuals will receive a comprehensive learning experience that equips them with the necessary skills and knowledge for a successful career with the organization. Through hands-on training, ongoing professional development opportunities, and exposure to emerging technologies such as electric buses, participants can establish a solid foundation for long-term success in this growing industry.
While program enrollment is not currently open, please spread the word about this opportunity and share it with any individuals who may be interested; email firstname.lastname@example.org with questions or to learn more.