Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority Serving Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia Counties
PHILADELPHIA, PA - There was an air of anticipation at SEPTA headquarters as recent graduates of a Regional Rail apprenticeship training program eagerly took their seats of honor. After two years of intense study and applied application, they waited to be welcomed to their new careers by Assistant General Manager of Human Resources Susan Van Buren, instructors, rail maintenance managers, and mentors.
"This is clearly a testimony to SEPTA's commitment to developing our employees," said Van Buren. "They're our future."
Honored were six individuals who completed training as 2nd Class Mechanics from previous positions as maintenance custodians.
Menyell Moore, John Bruenger, Curtis Gordon, Lamar Graham, Noel Gonzalles, and James Wolf all reached for the 'brass ring' - or in this case, a mechanic's brass control-handle which they will now use regularly in the maintenance of regional rail cars.
The two-year program combined technical and job training, classroom instruction and practical mentoring components and was conducted at several SEPTA vehicle maintenance locations. The coursework covers everything from the use of hand and power tools to hardware and equipment identification. To successfully complete the program, the students were expected to be proficient in safety procedures, air brake, electrical and heavy equipment repair.
Currently assigned to Wayne Junction Shop, at 51 years-old James Wolf is the most senior of his fellow graduates. Acknowledging the difficulties he encountered during the first 12 weeks of the program he, nevertheless, knew with perseverance he would succeed. Even though studying occasionally interfered with the time he could spend with his granddaughter, he knew he had to "study and stay on top of [my] subjects".
Curtis Gordon is the new 2nd Class Mechanic at Roberts Yard. His goal is to eventually become a 1st Class Mechanic and he is thankful to have completed this first step in his career. His training included repairing some of the older Silverliner II Regional Rail cars. It wasn't all easy for him.
"[You have to] take your time and pay attention," said Gordon. "Most of all you have to study and get in the frame of mind that this is what I want and this is what I'm going to be doing for my career."
Menyell Moore has perhaps the greatest distinction. The 32 year-old is the only female to graduate from the class this year. She completed all of her performance tests with flying colors. The newly appointed 2nd Class Mechanic now repairs Regional Rail trains at Powelton Yard. Although it was a challenge for the mother of two to dedicate significant time to her class work, she knew her goal ultimately would enable her to better provide for her family. Moore's favorite part of training was the time spent in the 'heavy repair' portion of her practical studies, where she learned how to properly disassemble rail vehicles.
"You can't remember or apply anything unless you study," said Moore. Fueled with the desire to advance further in her new career, Moore plans to pursue a 1st Class Mechanics certification in the near future.
At the helm of the program is Tom Rowbottom, Director of Vehicle Maintenance in the Regional Rail Division. "This program produces a great final product. The Training Department has continually made sure our students are well instructed and prepared every year".
As Robert Derr, a 25-year veteran and Technical Training Instructor in the Regional Rail Division looks towards retirement, he knows he needs to share is knowledge with those coming in.
"I started out as a mentor when the program began then became an instructor," said Derr. "I currently teach several components of the program including safety, air brake and heavy equipment repair. For me this is more than rewarding - it's necessary. These students are carving a new career for themselves and they can't find this detailed instruction anywhere else. I take pride knowing I am helping to equip our future Regional Rail mechanics".
The six graduating candidates represent a total of 38 employees who have successfully completed the program since its inception in 1994.
Participants are evaluated monthly by their supervisor, more experienced co-workers and the program coordinator to assure that they have successfully acquired the skills needed to perform the duties of a 2nd Class Railroad Mechanic. The program is nationally recognized by the United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Apprenticeship and Training (BAT) and provides employees a unique opportunity to acquire skills and experience in rail mechanical training.
Van Buren (far right), instructors, and mentors congratulate the newest graduates (seated) from the Regional Rail mechanical apprentice program
The graduates were awarded certificates stating their new position as 2nd Class Mechanics and a personal brass handle for performing maintenance on rail cars
Rowbottom (standing) offers praise to the recent graduates for their hard work and dedication during the program