First, let me say how proud I am to be APTA’s Chair at this exhilarating time in our association’s history. We stand at the edge of great change, growth and promise.
Throughout the year, you, our APTA members have given your time, energy and passion to the industry. I hope as we step into the New Year that you will continue to push APTA to new heights.
My first months as APTA Chair have been very busy and I’m looking forward to the next nine months working with Michael, the APTA staff and our many members.
I am grateful for the experience I’ve gained serving for the past 13 years on the board of NJ Transit. It has served me well, giving me exposure to all aspects of the industry. It has also afforded me a deep respect for the thousands of dedicated men and women who provide vital services every day for the people who depend on them.
Since being appointed in 1999, one of the areas I have been determined to have an impact in is to bring people from a variety of ethnicities and backgrounds into the public transportation industry.
Seeking out, attracting, and preparing the next generation of public transit leaders makes sense. Above and beyond it being the right thing to do, it produces a win-win scenario for all concerned. As we face a wave of retirements and the loss of vital institutional knowledge over the next decade, it’s imperative that we create a pool of qualified individuals, while putting in place the mechanisms to sustain them.
We must act quickly and swiftly to educate, mentor, and coach individuals to become future leaders and employees of our industry. But the process itself makes us stronger too, by developing a diverse, inclusive group of employees which in turn opens us up to new, rich and vibrant ideas, possibilities and experiences.
If we hope to maintain a competitive edge, we must attract, retain and develop the best talent in the marketplace. We are a global organization so it is imperative that we continue to develop those broad skill sets needed to even better serve our members. To do this effectively, we need a diverse workforce.
In fact, workforce development is one of my key goals as APTA Chair. It is one which I vow to continue advancing as much as I can during my tenure, and thereafter. APTA has made workforce development a priority, starting with the Blue Ribbon Panel. And over the last year, I chaired the Workforce Development Task Force to address any changes in the workforce and review our strategy to date.
We cannot continue business as usual.
We must take bold, decisive actions to bury the status quo. Our commitment to investing in human capital development gives us the ability to demonstrate to our employees and stakeholders, our obligation to customers and the industry at large.
Now is the time for action because human capital development is at the very core of our individual and collective futures. We are launching an “Early Career” Mid-Level Managers Development and Mentoring Program in Spring 2013 to fill a major gap identified by the task force. APTA is positioned to provide “sustainable,” ongoing and enhanced leadership to the industry on this important issue. As an initial step, I am creating an “APTA Center on Human Capital Investment,” which will provide an enhanced website presence, combined with webinars, roundtables and summits to promote best practices, and address skill gap shortages. Moving forward, we will continue to focus on how best to invest in human capital through model programs and other resources.
Another area that requires our immediate attention is authorization. I’m pleased we were able to create a new Authorization Task Force that met for the first time on Dec. 7. And with a bill that expires less than two years from now, we are already starting to build consensus among the APTA membership about what the next bill should look like.
A third area is geared toward our customers. We must elevate awareness of how public transportation serves as a bridge for them to a better life and more opportunities. This year we plan to work with non-traditional partners to show how public transit can increase access to critical health services. I hope to use my experience in the public healthcare field to reach out to organizations such as health-related associations and insurance companies to get them engaged in our mission.
We will also work to grow our grassroots transportation advocates. We will launch an initiative that will leverage APTA’s social media platforms and communications efforts to build a stronger grassroots community. I am passionate about the importance of advocacy, and I know we can build an army of advocates in every corner of our country.
All of the areas I’ve mentioned are in keeping with my theme for the year that “It’s all about the people.”
The idea of us being part of a community and the need for us to overcome our differences and barriers—real or imagined—for our mutual benefit is one that resonates deeply with me. I am in awe of the community of men and women who work at, and are associated with, APTA. APTA is privileged to have such dedicated, talented and hardworking members, partners, and staff who share the common goal of advancing all that is good about public transportation.
I don’t have a crystal ball to peer into the future, but I am confident that as we say goodbye to 2012 and hello to the New Year we will succeed in our goals.