Los Angeles - -Six students from the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) class took the first step toward their new career path by attending the Metro Bridge Training Program as active observers. They were given the opportunity to preview the two-week Metro class in the midst of their TAA training to get an idea of what’s in store for their future. All six students thrived in the new environment and were recognized at the March 5, 2010 graduation ceremony.
TAA student, Blas Diaz said, “It was a good opportunity to learn about Metro, and it was a great experience.”
The TAA class provides support to dislocated workers who lost their jobs due to their employer or job moving outside the United States. Students in the TAA class are taught English, math, study skills, and computer application to help them return to employment. The class started at Los Angeles Valley College (LAVC) Job Training in October 2009 and is scheduled to complete in June 2011.
In addition to general employment skills, each TAA student gets instruction to help them pursue a career path in their area of interest. In this case, the six students are interested in working in the transportation sector which could include working as bus operators, truck drivers, in transportation logistics, and many other related careers. Doug Marriott, Job Training Project Director, said the inaugural immersion of the TAA students into the Metro program epitomizes the mission of LAVC Job Training. “Our programs align education and life-long learning skills with real world vocational training,” Marriott explained.
“We were fortunate to be able to immerse our TAA students into the Metro Bridge class to give them a concrete idea of not only what to expect in the future, but also what they are striving for with a career opportunity in transportation. They were great contributors to this last cohort,” Marriott said.
The Metro Bridge Training Program was developed and implemented in August 2006 to meet Metro’s need of filling hundreds of bus operator positions. The program was created collaboratively by LAVC Job Training with partners from Metro, Community Career Development, and the Literacy Network of Greater Los Angeles. Since 2006, 667 men and women have been through the Bridge Program and, of those, 424 gained employment with Metro as bus operators.
The TAA students will return to the Bridge Program after they complete their TAA training and will then interview directly with Metro for possible employment. “I’m very excited to come back,” Diaz said. “I think I will be more ready at that time, now that I have an idea of what it is like.”
Lorraine Sharkey, TAA instructor, was instrumental in preparing the students for the Bridge Program. A week prior to the start, she accompanied the TAA students as they rode the Metro around Los Angeles and observed what is involved in being a bus operator. They discussed the importance of communication, customer service, and safety.
Sharkey noticed a positive shift in the student’s confidence after completing the Bridge Program. “I think they realized that the idea of driving is the same in any language and their biggest barrier to overcome in order to be successful is their English skills,” she said. “However, they also realized that being bilingual is an advantage because many of the customers will be speaking Spanish. It’s a public safety position, and they will need to communicate with many people.”
The TAA students received special participant certificates at the graduation and were acknowledged by their fellow Metro classmates and teachers. Metro instructor Jim McJunkin said, “We appreciate our six friends who were a part of this Metro class. They were gentlemen, professional, positive, and a pleasure to have in class.”
For some TAA students, the two week training was a life changing experience. Juan Santiago said the program gave him a new confidence in his own abilities. “This experience broke the ice for me. I was always low-key, never outspoken, and this opportunity gave me the chance to get out of my shell,” he said. “I now feel more confident talking in front of people.”
Santiago said he hadn’t been to school in 40 years, and he’d felt like something was missing. He said going through the TAA class and Metro program have been like a new beginning for him and that the instructors have been a big part of it. “Jim [McJunkin]’s style of teaching helped me relax. He helped me be more open and ready for when I go through the Bridge Program again because I’ll know what to expect.”