This issue focuses on the challenges of recruiting talented young people to the transit industry. We will need the very best we can get in the coming years to guide agencies through the continuing challenges of constrained budgets, burgeoning ridership and advances in technology. We have to compete for these candidates and seek them out. Let’s not assume they will find us.
Several years ago I met with the executive director of a state certified public accounting organization to discuss their recruiting of students to the profession. He told me accountants don’t have a sexy television show like LA Law or one of the young doctor’s shows to glamorize their line of work. He said unless someone grows up with a family member in accounting, there is typically very little exposure to or understanding of the opportunities and rewards that can be found on the CPA career path. In response, their organization instituted a comprehensive program to turn this around. FBI and Secret Service agents, armed and with accounting degrees, began to visit schools to talk about their international travels while investigating financial crimes. CEOs and CFOs from guitar and motorcycle companies talked about the fun side of being in charge, all because they understand balance sheets and profit and loss statements. Stories submitted to magazines and Web sites for students highlighted the interesting and rewarding side of working in accounting. The CPA group made a concerted effort to sell their profession to keep it strong.
Transit isn’t likely to get its own television series anytime soon. So what can you do to attract young talent, to expose your agency and your mission to good job candidates? Start with an internship program. Consider someone like Bailey Hatch, now a senior at the University of Illinois, with a major in business, who just completed a summer internship with an insurance company in Cincinnati. Bailey learned quite a bit about the insurance field, and, as it turned out, top executives at the company learned a great deal from Bailey. During her first few weeks on the job, her duties were fairly routine. But then she learned of a Twitter conference in New York City and inquired about attending on behalf of the company.
Bailey not only attended the conference, she returned armed with useful information and soon was presenting the business case for social networking to executives around the company. A company Facebook fan page was not far behind.
It’s hard to say who got the most out of this summer internship, but by all accounts it was a big success. And she was just one of several interns in the company’s annual program, each working on a project that either no one on staff could find time in their schedule to do, or didn’t really have the background to take on. If you could use a fresh perspective around the office, or want to kick-start a special project while possibly recruiting a good person to transit, give an intern a try.