Friday, February 17, 2017

Talking Shop: Community Transit's Mechanic Apprentice Program

Community Transit prides itself on investing in our exceptional Mechanics. We place a high value on education, both on-the-job continuing education and company-funded formal education. It's how we ensure we not only have an incredibly talented team to maintain our ever-growing fleet of vehicles, but we have a team that feels valued, confident, inspired. One way we grow these relationships with our employees is through our Apprentice Program.

Our Apprentice Program began as a way for our Vehicle Service Attendants and Vehicle Service Workers to gain the experience necessary to become a skilled journey-level mechanic. By growing our own mechanics through years of extensive training, we are privileged to have a team that is truly the best of the best. Most of our graduates from the program are still part of our maintenance family. We are proud to note there is an exceptional commitment to our agency that comes from growing up here. We all take care of each other.

Not all of our apprentices, though, come from in-house. We also partner with several technical colleges in the area to source dynamic candidates who are eager to learn. Our four-year Apprentice Program takes place over four years/8,000 hours. Students receive paid on-the-job learning at 60% of our regular mechanic salary, increasing every six months during the four-year program to receive 100% of salary at graduation. During this program, Community Transit pays for six hours in the shop and two hours at school for each weekday as they work towards their Diesel Technology Certificate. Our two-year Apprentice Program is offered when a student comes to us after receiving the certificate and works full-time in our shop for two more years.

Program participants spend each day partnered with a qualified Journey Mechanic to learn the ins and outs of all of our systems, including engines, transmissions, and brakes. This on-the-job learning not only ensures our apprentices learn everything their job will require of them, they also feel part of a family who believes in making a difference. Our Mechanics learn the importance of trusting the team that precedes them and trust for those who follow. This helps our new hires feel confident, no small task when working with complicated vehicles like ours. The programs also provide additional classroom learning for safety aspects and for detailed instruction on our specific equipment. Our apprentices are evaluated every quarter on their attentiveness, preparedness, safety, and quality of work.

While we require our apprentices to get a Diesel Technology Certificate, Community Transit recognizes the value in investing in additional education. We pay for additional coursework so they can get an associates degree. A well-rounded education provides our Mechanics with the potential to move up to leadership positions should they desire. Leadership positions include supervisory roles where individuals organize and set priorities for the teams: Shop Lead, Journey Mechanic Lead, Body Shop Lead, and Component Rebuild Lead.

Want to be part of a team that values it's employees? We're hiring!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

I Drive It: Meet Jaswinder, Community Transit Coach Operator

Ever wonder where that friendly face behind the wheel came from? Or what inspired that smile to drive a 30-, 40-, or even 60-foot vehicle? We all know that everyone has a story, but with over 300 Coach Operators employed by Community Transit, the stories here are rich and varied and often surprising. Their unique backgrounds all share a common theme: they want to make a difference in their communities. They are the face of our agency, the people who get you to work, to school, to errands, and back home again. Meet Jaswinder, Community Transit Coach Operator.

Jaswinder's path to us was a long and winding one. Originally from India, Jaswinder lived for 15 years in Vancouver, Canada, and 15 years in California prior to joining a Community Transit training class in 2006. Before he learned everything there is to know about driving a large bus, he knew everything there is to know about cheesemaking. Yes, that's right! Jaswinder worked at a large cheese plant near Modesto, California, where he ensured ingredients were accurately measured, supervised the pasteurization process, and monitored pH and acidity levels. While he enjoyed working at Hilmar Cheese, he was intrigued with the prospect of a great job at Community Transit when he met one of our drivers. Having worked as a taxi driver and dispatcher in Vancouver, he was inspired to pursue a new career behind the wheel. "I like driving. I especially like the freedom of driving. And the people. I have met people from all over the world."

The freedom of driving for a living is still enticing for Jaswinder. He's usually on the extra board, which means he jumps in to cover for any coworkers who have to miss their shift. "I get to do all of the routes, which means the scenery is always changing. I like that." Jas likes the flexible schedule, too. "When you are a new driver, the schedule can be a little bit challenging the first couple of years. But as you work here for awhile and get more seniority, there's a lot of flexibility in the schedule. You can create a schedule that works for you, which is especially good if you have kids."

While there's nothing like the freedom of being out on the road during work hours, Jas, like so many of our drivers, talk about how connecting with customers can really make the day. "One time at a layover at the Lynnwood Transit Center, a lost and disoriented elderly gentleman got on my bus by mistake. He was supposed to meet his daughter at Smokey Point. I was able to get his daughter's number and contact her to let her know her father was okay. Then I put the gentleman on a different bus that would take him to her."

It's that one-on-one interaction with customers that can change someone's day. "We're better than Trip Planner because we can help midway through a trip. We try to educate riders, too, on how transfers work and encourage them to get an ORCA card." Jaswinder can usually tell when people on his routes are a bit confused and can use a helping hand, "People who are visiting the Boeing Museum or the Seattle Premium Outlets will sometimes have questions. I'm happy to answer them." This commitment to customer service makes a difference to both riders and drivers. In eleven years, Jaswinder says he's never had any issues with disrespectful riders, "As long as you are respectful of them, they are respectful of you. I've always had good interactions with customers. It makes me proud to work here."

Does the freedom of being behind the wheel intrigue you, too? We're hiring!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Couples Find Love in Transit

It’s no secret that cupid has struck at Community Transit a time or two. In honor of Valentine’s Day we tell the stories of two couples who found love in transit.

Mike and Virginia

He’s a coach operator of 16 years and she has worked in admin for 10. Mike Meads and Virginia Ponce de Leon met on Facebook through a mutual co-worker (go figure) in June of 2014.  He liked her posts, she liked his posts. 

Next thing you know, they started messaging on Facebook and found out they had lots in common.
They hit it off right away on their first date, which was lunch at La Palmera on Evergreen (an employee favorite). Since they’ve been together, Virginia says she tries to sign up for coach operator appreciation on his sign-on time so she can give her favorite coach operator a big hug and kiss before he hits the road. 

A double order of congratulations is in order as they just got engaged on February 4, 2017 and are expecting their first child together this coming July, a little girl.

Paolo and Ronda

Paolo has been driving for Community Transit for the past 11 years. Ronda has been a coach operator for 7
years. Soon after Ronda started driving for Community Transit she would get paired together with Paolo to share a van back to base from their routes. They talked a lot on their rides together. Ronda says they talked about relationships and life most of the time.

They found that they liked many of the same activities and had a lot in common. They decided to start hanging out together and as Ronda says one thing led to another. Now they have been very happily married for 7 years in September.