In 2013, the City of Boston's fleet found itself short on fleet technicians. The City's policy to only hire residents significantly reduced the number of people who could apply, and the fleet needed to find another recruitment method.
Jim McGonagle, director of central fleet management, found an effective way to recruit qualified technicians for its fleet shop — by having fleet technicians train them.
"Since we were struggling to find qualified technicians, we thought we'd reach out to the local schools and through that, we learned of the internship program with our local technical high schools," McGonagle said. "Other departments had used it in the past but no one was currently utilizing it."
The fleet began its cooperative internship program this past summer. The program takes two students, one from a technical high school and one from a technical college, and allows them to train with fleet staff. The schools’ shop teachers choose which students to send, and they are asked to identify serious students who they felt were ready to enter the workplace. The fleet puts each student through the same interview process a technician would go through when they apply for the job.
Students are matched with a fleet technician in the 12-week internship and paid $10 per hour. They're sent to either the heavy-duty shop or the light-duty shop, depending on their interests. So far, there has been one student in each shop.
McGonagle said technicians volunteer their time, but in return, they get the benefit of someone helping them with their duties throughout the day.
"Initially, some of the technicians were apprehensive," he said. "They thought they were going to be babysitting, maybe. But that changed after having the first two interns."
Has this program solved Boston’s recruitment goal? McGonagle thinks so, as the fleet has hired the two interns from its first group to join the fleet staff. Both had to go through interviews again for the job, but they are given preference since they’ve already had their trial run on the shop floor.
"The first two employees were very well received. The shop foremen were ecstatic. They were hard-working, and they were willing to learn," McGonagle. "It's been a success so far."
The fleet is on its second group of interns, and McGonagle says there currently is a position open for a technician. In the future, his goal is to expand the program to four students at a time. The students alternate weeks, so expanding the program would mean having a student in each shop at all times and allowing more students to get work experience.
Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh has praised the program's success. "By thinking outside the box and looking to our young people, our fleet management team has solved a staffing issue and given our youth a place where they can learn and gain access to quality employment. I'll definitely be looking at ways that other city departments can replicate this success," Walsh said.
By Thi Dao