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19 held was in retail or a similar level job, some took the opera- Several operators in the challenged and stable system groups tor position because of the opportunity for a post-retirement mentioned inability or lack of desire to work with people with career change. disabilities or the mentally challenged as reasons that some Operators from challenged systems unanimously agreed people may not apply. One operator stated, "It isn't for every- that they were attracted to the job and remain on the job one." The inability to read maps was cited as a deterrent to because they liked driving and/or working with people with some applying for the position. Other factors cited by opera- disabilities. The following are examples of statements made tors were the lack of knowledge of the service area, followed by participants: by low pay and benefits, and licensing requirements. Supervisors expressed the belief that not knowing the layout "I enjoy serving my clients. It's rewarding." of the service area is the primary reason people do not apply for "I enjoy helping people who might not have anyone else." the operator position. In addition, low pay and licensing "Working with people with disabilities you get to know requirements were cited as deterrents to attracting applicants. them well." Several supervisors stated that overall benefits packages for "I love working with people with disabilities and seniors." paratransit operators are pretty bleak compared to those of "I like being out here by myself." fixed-route operators and adversely impact recruitment. In areas where the pay and benefits are considered good and are Operators concurred on what they felt typically attracts comparable to fixed-route operators, such as occurs in the sta- other applicants to the position of vehicle operator. The desire ble systems, maintaining a satisfactory applicant pool is not to help others was listed most often. In a few cases, the repu- considered a problem. tation of the transit agency or contracting company was listed Managers in challenged systems also saw the pay structure as a factor that attracts applicants. In systems where the level and poor benefits as the primary issues in attracting operators. of pay was described as "good," this was seen as attractive to One person described the pay as being "the same wages as Wal- applicants. The same factors that attract other operators Mart." The initial training pay is also a problem because in were mentioned as the reasons they stay on as operators, with most cases, training wages are less than post-training pay. Lack some focus group participants remaining on the job for up to of customer service skills were cited by managers in challenged 15 years or more. In addition to the reasons that were men- and stable systems as a problem in attracting the right type of tioned for being attracted to the position, the relationships people to the job. operators form with clients over a period of months or years were cited as reasons some people stay on the job. Two partic- How Providers Attract Applicants ipants in the stable group mentioned the good pay and bene- fits as well as the transit agency being like a family as factors Operators in both groups identified a number of approaches contributing to longevity of operators. that their employers use to attract vehicle operator applicants, The views of the majority (75%) of supervisors on what with varying degrees of success. Ads on buses, banners in front attracts people to apply for paratransit operator positions of the transit facilities, newspaper ads, and word of mouth are paralleled those of operators. They concurred that the desire some of the most frequently used. The operators felt that word to help others is the primary attraction to the position. Two of mouth was one of the most effective recruiting tools. They supervisors mentioned that often people do not know what mentioned that as they are driving their routes, people ask the job entails before completing an application. It is their them about their jobs and inquire about openings. In this way, belief that sometimes job seekers see a sign for a job opening operators become informal recruiters for their employers. and because of difficult economic times apply for the para- Some providers offer employee referral programs, in which the transit operator job in search of job security. referring operator receives a bonus when the person they refer is hired, and a second payment if the person remains with the provider for a certain period of time. Why Some Do Not Apply Several managers also spoke about the importance of Operators in the challenged group unanimously agreed word of mouth as a recruiting tool. Five described formal- that the wage level for paratransit operators is a major barrier ized employee referral programs to encourage employees to to recruiting and retaining paratransit operators stating the spread the word about job opportunities at their agencies. following: "The pay needs to be raised for all we do. The pay Through referral bonuses given at various intervals, employ- is too low and the responsibility so big. The job does not pay ees have an incentive to identify potential operators. Five much unless you are with the company for a long time." In managers also mentioned the practice of placing ads on addition, the uncertainty of schedules was cited as a possible Internet sites such as the contractor's website, Craigslist, reason that others do not apply. Monster, Career Builder, and in unemployment offices and