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August 30, 2010

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Building a Sustainable Public Transportation Workforce: The Blue Ribbon Panelís Final Report on Critical Human Capital

APTA’s Executive Committee recently accepted the final report of its Workforce Development Blue Ribbon Panel, which affirmed that workforce and human capital issues are critical to the continuing success of the public transportation industry.

Recognizing this need and building upon the success of APTA’s previous workforce development initiatives, APTA Immediate Past Chair Dr. Beverly A. Scott established this panel, which represented the public and private sectors of the industry, key stakeholders, and partners including labor, academia, and the next generation of leaders in APTA. The panel included a technical resources group, comprising federal partners, labor, and organizations responsible for delivering workforce development and training programs.

Current APTA Chair M.P. Carter has continued this initiative. Under the leadership of Doran Barnes, APTA’s vice chair-human resources, the panel developed a unified work plan for the next five years, with 32 recommendations for new programs, projects, and services that address six areas:

* Image and branding;
* Higher education (postsecondary) issues;
* Youth outreach and awareness programs;
* Partnerships and collaborations;
* Development of performance metrics to determine the return on investment; and
* The impact of authorization of the federal public transportation law and other legislative proposals on workforce development.

“I acknowledge the vision and foresight of Dr. Scott in establishing the panel to address our industry’s future workforce challenges and opportunities,” said Carter. “Building upon APTA’s TransitVision 2050 and our new five-year strategic plan, I am pleased with the panel’s final recommendations and look forward to advancing the implementation plan.”

The panel produced three resources that complement its work:

* APTA’s Preliminary Skill Development and Training Needs Report. This report is based on a survey of APTA members from front-line supervisors to top executives in both the public and private sectors. The report confirms and demonstrates industry assumptions about the impact of impending baby boomer retirements; identifies the top 10 training needs for all levels of leaders and supervisors in both the public and private sectors; and provides five key conclusions and recommendations for APTA and the industry.

* Survey of Existing Resources, Practices and Metrics of Workforce Development Programs in the U.S. Transit Industry, funded through the Transit Cooperative Research Program. This report, conducted by the Transportation Learning Center, captured a snapshot of the existing level of investment in transit training activities and the features and metrics of these activities. In brief, the survey found that the overall level of transit’s investment in training continues to be low, compared with the average of all U.S. industries, particularly the leading companies, and the level of variability of training investment across agencies is high. The information from this survey may support further efforts to establish industry-developed models that measure the return on investment on such elements as workforce development activities and training.

* “Careers in Public Transportation” toolkit for grades K-5, recently launched. The toolkit and accompanying guide are designed for educators, students, youth program providers, transit agencies, and businesses to assist in promoting career opportunities in public transportation.

“Workforce development has been a key issue for many years, with great programs and services in place within the industry,” said Barnes. “There have, however, been challenges with coordinating these efforts and maximizing available resources. The panel’s work has allowed our industry to better ‘connect the dots’ and provide the long-term blueprint for workforce development. Our industry has career appeal for a new and diverse workforce representing the best and the brightest.”

Looking ahead, APTA’s Fiscal Year 2011 business plan includes conducting APTA’s 2nd Youth Summit, promoting a “National Public Transportation Career Day,” piloting an educational road show, and implementing the blue ribbon panel’s recommendations.

For more information about APTA’s effort in workforce development, visit the web site.

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