Chicagoland agencies ramp up hiring efforts amid nationwide transit workforce shortage
October 18, 2022
Like many other industries, transit nationwide has been impacted by a tight job market. According to a new report from the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), 96 percent of agencies surveyed reported experiencing a workforce shortage, 84 percent of which said the shortage is affecting their ability to provide service.
Most agencies across the country report the shortage has forced service reductions. The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) has made headlines recently for announcing a plan to cut 20 percent of their bus routes in order to improve on-time service on the remaining 99 routes.
Chicagoland is not immune to these challenges. For example, over the summer, the CTA shared that they had more than 1,000 fewer union employees than pre-pandemic, including about 890 fewer bus operators.
The CTA, Metra, and Pace know that the region’s transit system relies on bus and train operators, station attendants, mechanics, and other workers on the ground to function efficiently and reliably and meet the needs of riders. Here is what the service boards are doing to make more hires.
One of the five key pillars of the CTA’s Meeting the Moment action plan, a response to challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, is to invest in their employees. In order to hire more operators more quickly, recent changes to workforce rules allow for the direct hire of full-time operators, increased wages, and improved healthcare benefits. The CTA is also investing in recruiting and marketing efforts and hosting both in-person and virtual job fairs. Check the CTA’s LinkedIn page and Careers page for the most up-to-date information about job fairs and opportunities.
Most recently, the CTA has announced a partnership with Olive-Harvey of Chicago to prepare qualified candidates for bus operator positions and future careers in transportation. This will help to fill the employment pipeline and provide a benefit to students seeking stable, well-paying work. The CTA covers the cost of tuition, training, books, fees, and other expenses associated with a two-week course available to qualified CTA applicants that will assist candidates in meeting the hiring requirements of obtaining a Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP), which is needed to obtain a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) Class “B.”
“One of the supporting pillars of the Meeting the Moment Action Plan focuses on delivering reliable and consistent service, which is not possible unless CTA can hire the workforce needed to operate scheduled service,” said CTA President Dorval Carter, Jr. “This program, which began in August, has already produced a dozen new hires currently in training, showing that thinking outside the box and finding ways to reduce barriers will be vital in speeding up the bus operator hiring process.”
Metra is always looking for talented people to fill their open positions. Everyone from engineers to ticket clerks are necessary to keep the trains running on time, and Metra is recruiting for a variety of positions requiring a wide array of skills. Checking their LinkedIn page and Careers page is the best way to stay up-to-date on opportunities.
Pace has been busy recruiting operators, mechanics, servicers, and administrative staff at 14 locations throughout the six counties it serves. Pace recognizes that there are financial and educational barriers to becoming a bus operator, and like CTA, they are partnering with local community colleges to offer free training to qualified candidates. Pace has partnered with Olive-Harvey College in Chicago and most recently with Harper College in Palatine to offer free CDL permit courses to aspiring employees. Pace covers the associated costs, hires the graduates, and then begins their paid, on-the-job training. They plan to expand these partnerships to other colleges around the region.
Pace continues to work with elected officials, municipalities, and technical/trade programs like Universal Technical Institute in Lisle to host hire-on-the-spot events, attend as many job fairs as possible, and promote job opportunities. Additionally, Pace has stepped up its digital advertising program and leveraged all communication platforms to solicit more applicants. Keep an eye on Pace’s LinkedIn page and Careers page for the most up-to-date information on career opportunities.
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