The National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT) has released the results of a survey it conducted earlier this year, covering topics ranging from member demographics, to benefits, to the organization’s annual summit. Findings show a diverse and engaged membership that highly values the organization as a source for industry information and education, and requests even more interaction with board members, other members and hands-on training at the summit.
Among the members who comprise NAPT, the average age is 50 and they have about 20 years of experience in pupil transportation, according to survey results. Nearly two-thirds are older than 50, while nearly one-third are between the ages of 31 and 49, and less than 5% are 30 or younger.
What this shows, Michael Martin, executive director of NAPT, said, is that the organization needs to focus not only on helping with retirement planning, but also on succession planning, and connecting the two groups on each end of the age spectrum.
“We need to make sure there is a connection between those approaching retirement age and those who are newer in the industry so there’s clear thinking about succession planning,” he explained.
Another survey finding showed that 77% of the membership uses social media, which falls in line with some of NAPT’s primary methods of reaching out to members using Facebook and Twitter in addition to its website. For example, the association recently live-tweeted an entire presentation it collaborated on with the National Safe Routes to School Partnership.
Members are also diverse in terms of fleet sizes and the number of students they serve. Survey results show 64% of respondents work for a district with 5,000 students or more, and 43% have fewer than 100 buses in their fleet.
“Taking a look at those stats in particular you might think a school system that has 5,000 students should also be a district that has x number of buses over time, [but] one of the things we learned from this is just because two districts are contiguous doesn’t mean that they are anything alike,” Martin pointed out. “By publishing [that data] we can better enable people to make accurate comparisons and network effectively in the field.”
A request for more interaction with board members was another survey finding; approximately half of all respondents said they have never had contact with a board member, although the NAPT board of directors’ performance did receive high marks from 70% of respondents. NAPT is responding by having regional directors communicate with members in their regions on a regular basis.
“[When] we’re trying to develop policy, at a national level in particular, it’s important to know what everyone in a particular region is doing, not just one or two states. We have heard they would like our regional directors to do more outreach, communication and to try to foster more interaction among all the people in that region,” Martin said.
What has been particularly effective has been the work NAPT has done with the American School Bus Council to spread the word about the council’s annual “Love the Bus” initiative; 89% of respondents are aware of the initiative.
As part of NAPT’s effort to connect members on succession planning, it will work on spreading awareness of the Career Center feature it offers through its website. Nearly two-thirds of members are already aware of the feature, survey results show.
“We are going to make a more direct connection among the membership who are retirement age and those earlier in their careers,” Martin said. “We think developing and focusing on succession planning is absolutely something people want and need. A logical way to do this is through the Career Center. Over time, we’re going to expand outreach for the Career Center so it becomes a more broad resource for people.”
In addition to 91% of respondents regularly reading Dispatch, NAPT’s weekly enewsletter, nearly two-thirds also visit the website on a monthly basis.
“People find [Dispatch] valuable, and now we supplement it with information on our website,” Martin said. “People not only read Dispatch, they look for it in their inboxes.”
He added that the survey results in Section 4, which addressed the NAPT Annual Summit, ended up effecting change at this year’s summit. Feedback indicated that members still want a four-day conference, which has been the conference’s length in the past.
“We structured the program this year so you get as much content in three days as you got in almost four days in the past,” Martin explained.
Members also view the networking aspect of the conference as nearly or just as important as the educational content, of which 83% said was an overwhelming factor in their decision to attend. As a result, Martin said, their will be more time reserved for networking at the conference this year, as well as more roundtable discussions.
Additionally, the headliner/spinoff that NAPT used last year for the first time was a hit with the majority of respondents, but many suggested that more than 30 minutes was needed for presentations. In response, NAPT is allotting 40 minutes for each presentation.
The desire from members for even more engagement extended to requests for more hands-on training at the conference, from 62% of respondents, including directors and supervisors. Martin said that NAPT is going to continue to try and find more ways to bring that to the directors and supervisors as well as technicians, inspectors and drivers.