Technicians at Parkway School District in Chesterfield, Mo., have formed a “Shop Professional Learning
Community,” where they get together to share solutions to problems and develop maintenance best practices.
A well maintained fleet is an important component of safe pupil transportation, and at the helm of a well-maintained fleet is a team of well-trained technicians. Officials say that training must begin from day No. 1 when technicians are hired and continue regularly throughout each year.
“We use the Florida 30-day school bus inspection criteria as a guideline to test our techs,” says Don Ross, director of vehicle maintenance at the School District of Manatee County in Bradenton, Fla., “and when we hire a tech, we assign them to a seasoned tech as a mentor, and they stay with that mentor at least 12 months. They start out on our support fleet, things like cars and trucks. As they work through that, we’ll have a base knowledge based on [feedback from] their mentor, and based on their school bus inspection performance — that’s how we gauge them.”
Tech-to-tech training is a common practice at school districts’ maintenance operations, and it speaks to what officials say is essential to effective training: teamwork.
Techniques for assessing techs’ skills
Like the School District of Manatee County, the maintenance staff at Brevard Public Schools in Cocoa, Fla., uses what Director of Transportation Arby Creach calls a “technician team” approach to training and skill assessment.
“Experience, not necessarily seniority of the paired technicians, is the key element of this team concept,” Creach says. “This very personal approach creates professional partnerships between technicians and opens lines of communication that would otherwise not be realized in a classroom or large group training sessions. We find this approach enhances the speed, knowledge and retention rate for technician training and skills development. It also quickly identifies gaps or deficiencies in a particular skill area or repair technique.”
In conjunction with the technician partnerships, Creach says that Brevard pushes its technicians to “think outside of the box” during training sessions, thereby enabling them to further develop their skills.
“As an example, during the course of training, we will remove the option of just buying a new part and bolting it on,” Creach says. “We want our technicians to focus more on diagnostics and the root cause of a component failure or catastrophe. This trains the technician and our supervisors to address the repair in a manner that gathers data, which is helpful to the industry and allows fleet services to possibly predict the next failure long before it happens. When technicians think and diagnose, not just bolt on a new part, we save our district money, and by sharing our data, help other districts as well.”