RTA starts apprenticeship program with federal grant

RTA starts apprenticeship program with federal grant
RTA offering apprenticeships through federal grant. (Source: WOIO)

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - RTA has 2,500 jobs, but spokespeople say at any given moment, 5% of those jobs are vacant. Many of the unfilled positions are on the rail-side of RTA. They only foresee that problem getting worse. The current workforce is aging out and RTA is trying to stay ahead of the issue.

The US Secretary of Labor, Tom Perez said in a tour of the rail yard, "the population is aging so we have a big retirement problem. It's acute in the transit context. Time is off the essence."

That's why RTA General Manager Joe Calabrese says RTA is teaming up with Cleveland State and Tri-C with a new, streamlined apprenticeship program.

"We need people that can fix things. Not as many people are going into that profession now. We need people with that aptitude, give them the training to work with our senior people to start a great career," said Calabrese.

Perez says apprenticeships used to be alluring. Times have changed though, and the excitement kids had playing with train sets hasn't exactly translated to the real world. RTA and the Department of Labor hope to fire up some more excitement by being more connected with the schools and developing a pipeline of future workers through the apprenticeship program.

"Apprenticeship is the other college except without the debt. It's real opportunity to get some skills," said Perez.

If you ask mechanics who went through a pilot program of the apprenticeship program, they'll tell you it's a success.

"Not everybody can sit at a desk. This can be something the young people can work with," said RTA mechanic, Scott Thompson.

That optimism is something RTA hopes will carry over into the new apprentices as well. The 2016 through 2018 apprenticeship program will be paid for with an almost $408K  Department of Labor gr ant.

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