SAN JOSE, CA-- At the start of the 2nd Annual National Apprenticeship Week, job training program experts and thought leaders hosted a launch and bus tour of a brand new, groundbreaking apprenticeship program in the heart of the Silicon Valley. This apprenticeship features job classifications in public transportation that are the first kind of their kind in the country, such as the bus coach operator and overhead line apprenticeships. The program is growing internal talent to help backfill looming retirements - the so called ‘silver tsunami - from the hard-to-fill, high quality jobs in the public transportation sector. The very successful labor-management partnership is a source of pride for the agency, a model for other agencies in the state facing the same labor pressures who came to learn how to start similar programs at in their own regions.
This behind-the-scenes tour highlighted how a transportation agency operates and how this apprenticeship program has already begun improving lives of working people in the Silicon Valley.
Apprenticeship programs are receiving national attention for the unique opportunities they provide working people. The earn-while-learn model provides an attainable path for workers looking gain skills and a solid career with wages that can sustain a family. Many employers looking to grow and thrive in the economy are also drawn to this model.
The Transit Apprenticeships for Professional Career Advancement (TAPCA)initiative is a unique example of the mutual benefit apprenticeship programs offer to both working people and employers. Created by the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 265 (ATU), the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA), and Mission College in Santa Clara with support from the California Labor Federation and the California Community College’s “California Apprenticeship initiative, TAPCA is a new industry-based program connecting employers, labor unions, and educational agencies to establish career pathways to good jobs in the transit industry.
The TAPCA initiative began in August and has already impacted dozens of new apprentices a few months into the program. Nuria Fernandez, General Manager and CEO, Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority felt a lack of educational training within this field, where apprenticeships are seldom offered.
"We knew we couldn’t just wait around for people to apply for these jobs…we had to go out and find them and train them and set them on a path to leadership in this industry."
The tour of the training sites was kicked off with a ceremony of recognition for the innovative TAPCA program, featuring speakers including Chief Operating Officer for Santa Clara VTA Inez Evans, General Manager/CEO for Santa Clara VTA Nuria Fernandez, President, VTA Board of Directors Cindy Chavez, Director of CA Department of Industrial Relations Christine Baker, President of Mission College Daniel Peck, President of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 265 Diana Hermone, Executive Secretary Treasurer of the California Labor Federation Art Pulaski, Coach operator and JWI mentor/coordinator Susan Yates, and Coach operator apprentice graduate and JWI mentor/coordinator Jamaine Gibson.
At the launch of the tour, Art Pulaski, Executive Secretary Treasurer of the California Labor Federation said of TAPCA:
“Creating these apprenticeships was neither easy, nor was it an overnight process. It was the result of a high road partnership begun over 8 years ago, with the Federation’s support. High road partnerships work because they involve the two stakeholders most invested in the long periods of planning, development and sustainability – labor and management. It’s why California’s construction apprenticeship system is so robust today, and a good model for other sectors.”
Daniel Peck, President of Mission College, congratulated all partners, and showed much enthusiasm over the success of this program.
“Our role is to prepare the next generation of workers. We are so proud to see this program come together and to see the faces of all the students involved. We are now coming together in one room and celebrating this great vision for the community.”
After the recognition ceremony, participants boarded the behind-the-scenes bus to head to and tour one of the training sites for the TACPA program, the Ohlone/Chenoweth light rail station. This station is home to the first state apprenticeship of its kind – Track apprentice. At the station, apprentices and their mentors explained the mechanical routines of the tracks.
After the tour of Ohlone/Chenoweth, the tour returned back to the Chaboya training site where participants had the chance to see apprentices at work and training in motion at the service bays. This program’s event displayed revolutionary labor-management relationships within the transit agency, all while boosting the public’s use, ridership, and customer satisfaction with the agency.