Will Rosa, director of transportation at Parkway School District in Chesterfield, Mo., says his technicians have formed a “Shop Professional Learning Community,” which is in keeping with a new district-wide learning structure: Professional Learning Communities, or PLCs. With PLCs, individuals collaborate and share ideas to get positive results.
“It is natural to assume when you see three or even five technicians gathered around a bus that not much ‘wrenching’ is happening,” Rosa says. “But what is happening that may not be so visible on the surface is an exchange of thoughts, opinions and knowledge between technicians. This has evolved into a purposeful and powerful way to identify solutions and develop best practices. It takes some flexibility and willingness to listen to others to make this successful.”
Rosa also notes the importance of “management by walking around” in assessing technicians’ skills.
“Our fleet maintenance manager, Fred Matlack, can be seen deploying a similar strategy,” he says. “In addition to reviewing completed repair/maintenance tickets, he spends much of the time in the shop observing, inspecting and checking progress of technicians while they are working.”
Ed Mikelski, head mechanic at Wauconda (Ill.) Community Unit School District #118, expands on the idea of “management by walking around,” saying, “Key areas that tell you training is required are: The job is too difficult to perform; the job takes too long to perform; it may not be done right the first time; or we cannot diagnose the problem correctly.”
At the School District of Manatee County in Bradenton, Fla., techs document problems they’ve never experienced in a “Hot Topics” book at the shop with a photo and a description of the problem, along with the solution. At the end-of-the-year in-service training, all “Hot Topics” issues from the year are reviewed.
Invest in good equipment, track diagnostic problems
Officials say that technology presents a challenge in training technicians, mostly in terms of keeping them abreast of continual changes.
To address this, Creach invested in computers and Internet connectivity for each of his operation’s garage bays and technician supervisor offices.
“Each technician on the shift has a computer and associated support equipment now assigned for their exclusive use,” he explains. “There’s no more sharing and waiting in line to access online diagnostic and vendor sites. Additionally, as a function of skill building, we provide an opportunity for our technicians to participate in district-sponsored computer skills workshops on an as-needed basis.”
When diagnosing problems and making repairs to school buses or white fleet vehicles, keeping track of that data is not only important, it can provide a training opportunity for technicians.
At the School District of Manatee County, when technicians generate a work order off of an inspection or a write-up, if it’s not a common repair, they take a picture of it and print it with the work order so that there’s a visual along with a written description of the problem.
“We then take that one step further,” Ross says. “If an item pops up that we haven’t experienced before, we create a ‘Hot Topic.’ That topic is placed in a book with pictures of the failure, cause and solution, and then everyone has to read it, understand it, and they’re tested on it, and they sign off on it. At the end-of-the-year in-service training, we review all of the Hot Topic issues for the year.”