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Program helps students get on "fast-track" to careers at SEPTA

Manuel McDonnell Smith
Public Information Manager

As summer comes to an end, and students from around the Delaware Valley return to shuffling back into their school year routines, fifteen special students are celebrating a major accomplishment Last week, they became official graduates of SEPTA's 2013 High School Summer Internship Program. Each graduate was presented with a special certificate at a luncheon hosted & attended by the top leadership of both the Authority and Transit Workers Union 234 (TWU), the largest of SEPTA's employee unions.

This was the fourth year of a unique partnership formed between SEPTA, TWU, and Philadelphia Academies, Inc. where students from the trade academies of city's public schools were invited to apply to participate in an eight-week, fully-paid internship program. After passing an application review and interview process, the selected 15 students were placed in hands-on externships based at three of the agency's Heavy Maintenance Facilities including the Berridge Bus Overhaul Shops, Fern Rock Rail Maintenance Shops, and the Woodland Light Rail Maintenance Facility.

Paired with an employee mentor, the interns cycle through the main job assignments at each location during the summer, learning and then getting the chance to actually perform the tasks that help keep the Authority's fleet of nearly 2,000 bus and rail vehicles that serve the city of Philadelphia operating both safely & reliably.

In addition to providing a unique summer experience for the students, the program also offers a real opportunity for the participating students to gain a "fast-track" into employment opportunities at the Authority after they graduate. According to Joe Quinn, SEPTA's Manager of Workforce Development, there have been four students since the program's inception in 2009 that have been accepted into SEPTA's employee apprenticeship program. "In four years, they will be able to qualify as a mechanic first-class, and be set for life doing really interesting and useful work", he explained of the opportunity, which also could result in successful applicants gaining a career opportunity where they will be "getting paid pretty well."

"The [internship] program is a benefit because it allows our members to show the skills they have, and pass it on to the younger people" said John Johnson Jr., President of TWU Local 234. He says his members look forward to participating in the program every summer, "The mentors have just have one word to describe the program, and that's pride. They have pride in themselves and they have pride in the mentees that come through and are able to adapt very quickly to the information that they are being taught", he boasted at the celebratory luncheon. At the event, the interns and their families were able to hear from both SEPTA & TWU's top leadership including SEPTA General Manager Joe Casey, Deputy General Manager Jeff Knueppel and TWU President John Johnson.

SEPTA, TWU, and Philadelphia Academies plan to partner again to offer the program for a fifth summer in 2014. The program is open to high school juniors and seniors who are in good standing in the mechanical or electrical programs at Swenson, Mastbaum, and West Philadelphia High Schools. Those who are interested in applying can contact their Philadelphia Academies Coordinator at their school for more information.


The entire SEPTA High School Summer Internship Class of 2013



SEPTA & TWU Leaders sponsored a luncheon to celebrate the intern graduation at the end of the summer.



The students and their families were hosted at SEPTA's Center City Headquarters Building



Terrence Bernhardt of Mastbaum High School celebrates his internship program graduation with his family



Julian Ruiz of Mastbaum High School poses with his summer mentor "Big Mike" of SEPTA's Woodland Shops