How to get more transportation workers? Build a school.

By Robbie Webber

Many transportation agencies are concerned about where they will get their next generation of workers. But the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the operator of transit service in Los Angeles County known as Metro, has plans to solve this problem by training students at a new boarding school.

Metro plans to partner with the Los Angeles County to build a charter school on a site in South Los Angeles that has been vacant since a fire during the 1992 riots. The neighborhood is in need of services and Metro hopes that the Transportation School will bring both opportunity and revitalization to the area. It is part of a larger development plan that will feature a transit center, job training center, apartments, retail, and a grocery store.

Transportation agencies across the country are facing a workforce crisis as many of their current employees are nearing retirement. Young workers either are not trained for the jobs or are not interested. As older workers retire, agencies fear the loss of knowledge that will result. Metro is confronting the same demographics, as nearly 30 percent of Metro’s workforce is eligible for retirement in the next few years. The Transportation School is an opportunity to pass on some of the institutional knowledge and train the workers they need.

The school will feature STEM and vocational skills training as well as a college preparatory curriculum. Although the Los Angeles area has magnet schools that offer a science and technology focus, and others that feature vocational training, there isn’t one that combines the two. The proposed school will be a public high school where students from across the county can stay during the week and return home on weekends—all at no cost to the students in a neighborhood with limited opportunities.

With the passage of Measure M in 2016, there will be funding for a suite of large transportation projects, so many workers will be needed in the area in the coming years. Los Angeles Mayor and Metro Board Chair Eric Garcetti pointed out that the school will serve two purposes. “This new school gives young Angelenos a pathway to successful, long-lasting careers in the transportation industry—which, thanks to Measure M, will create hundreds of thousands of jobs in our region for years to come.”

“The transportation industry faces a huge challenge in creating a qualified workforce for the future,” said Metro CEO Phillip A. Washington. “Not only is this a way to ensure we have the employees we need to transform transportation in Los Angeles County, but also a way to develop and cultivate the most important asset we have—our people.”

Robbie Webber is a Senior Associate at SSTI.