The University of Massachusetts Amherst's transit system is teaming up with the College of Engineering's Transportation Center and Hartford-based CTTRANSIT to offer a first-of-its-kind certificate in transit management and operations.
The program is being funded with a $127,284 federal grant announced by U.S. Transportation Department Secretary Ray La Hood.
The program is aimed at training the next generation of the transit workforce and will offer students training in many aspects of transit management. The certificate program is expected to draw student employees of the university's own bus system. It will also help them with something even more coveted among students, especially those about to graduate:
"A job," said Allan E. Byam, general manager of Transit Services at UMass Amherst.
"They are actually hiring out there. We've been quite successful in placing students," he said. CTTRANSIT is one of those organizations with a history of providing experience and employment to UMass Amherst students and is a partner in the new grant program, added Byam.
UMass Transit operates vans and Pioneer Valley Transit Authority buses for the Five Colleges as well as the towns of Amherst, Belchertown, Deerfield, Granby, Hadley, Northampton, South Hadley and Sunderland.
According to Byam, the certificate program is ideal for those students who, after driving a bus or otherwise working for UMass Transit, get bitten by the "transit bug."
"We employ about 200 students, and there are also some who get the 'transit bug,'" he said. "We had a handshake agreement with transit agencies whereby students get experience and jobs in maintenance, finance and other areas. The industry loves UMass Amherst grads. This program will help us formalize that."
Many transit operations are publicly owned, but managed privately by companies such as First Transit Management Group.
The academic parameters of the new program are being drafted in conjunction with John Collura, professor of civil and environmental engineering and director of the UMass Transportation Center.
"There won't have to be any new courses," said Byam. "We are working with what we have." The program will officially launch in the fall of 2012.
The project, which had the support of U.S. Rep. John Olver, was selected on a competitive basis through the Innovative Transit Workforce Development Program, which is funded out of $3 million in fiscal 2010 discretionary National Research funds.