New Student Employee Program Designed to Build Leaders in Transit

Nov. 7, 2021
Palm Tran has developed a new student-focused program where both agency and student employee grow from the experience.

Building a strong future for public transportation means investing in the industry leaders of tomorrow. With that focus, TRANSITiON, Palm Tran’s Learning Academy, is launching a paid Student Employee Program designed to nurture interest in public transportation. The pilot program is a partnership between the student and each participating department to learn, foster innovative ideas and provide real work experience beyond the campus.

“I am excited for this program to spark a lifelong interest in the vast opportunities available in public transportation,” said Palm Tran Executive Director Clinton B. Forbes. “There are many facets which comprise our organization and this is a great way for young minds to consider a rewarding career in transit. It is an amazing chance for us to learn from each other, being open to ideas and knowledge each student brings and also sharing what we know with them.”

Each student employee will be paid $10 an hour, up to 1,000 hours, for a maximum of $10,000. To participate in the program, students must be enrolled in an accredited educational or vocational program throughout their employment. It is not a student intern program, which is an unpaid position to fulfill a curriculum requirement for graduation. There are five student employee positions.

“This is a robust program for students,” said Lili Finke, Ed.D., manager of Organizational Development. “We want students to be involved in meaningful projects and learn from those projects as they transition from the campus life to the reality of the world of work. Our goal is to create a successful experience for both the students and Palm Tran. Students are our eyes and ears of the future.”

Every student employee will experience the same hiring process other employees undergo, including applying and interviewing. Once hired, students must complete Palm Tran’s orientation first and then a separate orientation with Finke. She will guide each student to focus on three learning goals and objectives and pinpoint their interests prior to starting with the selected department supervisor or manager.

Created to offer a real work experience, the program is a buy-in from the department hiring the student. Supervisors/managers must fill out a request for a student employee listing specific departmental goals and objectives along with detailed descriptions of the student’s responsibilities. The position is not to replace a position or to cover duties such as filing, reception or errands.

The supervisor/manager will be involved in screening applicants and interviewing, along with developing learning goals and provide quarterly and final evaluations. Part of the program will give students the opportunity to spend time in three different departments at Palm Tran. In “A Day in the Life,” each student can work on specific projects and learn from another part of the public transportation operation.

The program is structured to benefit both Palm Tran and students, Finke says. For Palm Tran, along with recognizing future talent, it also increases involvement and builds partnerships with educational institutions, allows freedom for professional staff to pursue creative projects and supports leadership skills in current employees as they become mentors.

For students, it affords them a way to gain practical experience in all areas of public transportation, work on their professional strengths and weaknesses while enhancing their self-confidence and career direction, Finke says.

Once 1,000 hours are completed, the student will prepare a final presentation to the executive leadership team on what they learned, their takeaways and receive a certification of completion along with a final evaluation.

At press time, there is one student employee and four openings. The positions are available to the following departments: Executive Office, Human Recourses, Performance Management, Planning and Procurement. To apply for a student employee, a supervisor/manager must fill out a Student Employee Request Form from Human Resources.


Ivonne Perez is the public relations specialist at Palm Tran. 

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Nov. 6, 2013