Operator Mentorship Program
National workforce shortages are a problem for public transit agencies. In response to the employment shift, GCRTA designed a mentor-protege program called the Positive Impact (PI) program. Seasoned operators who have been with RTA for a few years support newly hired operators. The program started this spring and is expanding. This year-long program is used to support new operators through new-hire training. New hires are paired with mentors at four RTA districts (Triskett, Hayden, Paratransit, and Rail). The program is a collaboration with the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), Local 268 to give better support to new operators. “Our goal is to build the mentor ranks to a point that each new operator will be paired with a mentor during their first year of service," said Darnell Morris, Assistant Business Agent for the ATU.
Most newly hired operators have no transit experience, or a Commercial Driver License (CDL). We provide paid training for new hires to obtain their CDL through a partnership with Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C). GCRTA donated buses to Tri-C for student drivers to use while preparing to drive a bus for their career. This partnership addresses the changes in the workforce and creates jobs to have sustainable wages.
Driver Support System
In addition to new hire training, the mentorship program gives additional support to new drivers and their transition to transit operations. The mentors provide tips for new drivers to navigate their work schedules, the best ways to operate a motor vehicle, and how to serve our public. For Rail Yard Operator Shalea Griffin, finding a way to help her grow and transition into a new role are the reasons she chose to participate in the PI program. “It has truly been a blessing to have a mentor that I can always trust to help me in my time of need,” said Griffin. “This experience has helped me gain a newfound confidence and increased my self-awareness on what I can do to be more effective and efficient at my job.”
Mentors also help guide mentees on the work-life balance of being an operator. The opportunity to positively impact a young operator’s career at a critical point after their initial training is the reason why Bus Operator Omeal Mullings became a PI Mentor. “I like my job very much and have taken advantage of agency programs along with my continuous training to provide a good life for my family,” said Mullings. “Everyone who comes through GCRTA’s doors has the same opportunity as I do, but sometimes they need some guidance to keep them going in the right direction. Giving advice to mentees and sharing the inspiration on how successful you can be if you stay with the agency is very rewarding,” added Mullings. Even seasoned operators get some tips from mentors if needed. This program can transition mentees into mentors to pay it forward by helping a new operator in the PI program that they participated in.
Some of the Operator Mentors selected for the program, receiving their pins:
- Robert Holley, Triskett District
- Mark Campbell, Hayden District
- Clyde Porter (back), Hayden District
- Cynthia Sims (front), Hayden District
- Rickey Hardley (back), Hayden District
- Rodnika Phillips (front), Rail District
- Herman Allen (back), Triskett District
- Marcus Stewart (right), Triskett District
When potential mentor candidates apply, a panel of ATU members and GCRTA management rate each candidate on their application essay questions, work record, and their overall reputation (both as an operator and with coworkers). The highest-rated candidates are selected to fill the number of slots available. Applicants not selected are welcome to re-apply for the next program period.