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An interesting twist

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Posted by Euclid on Wednesday, February 19, 2020 3:41 PM

I don't know what current vetting Amtrak performs, but I think it needs to go much deeper than just background checks, past work history, general interviews, etc.  That is the vetting of 20-50 years ago.  All railroads do at least that kind of vetting. 

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Posted by rdamon on Wednesday, February 19, 2020 3:55 PM
I think this has been called Choo-Choo U in other threads, but these kinds of programs / degrees seem to be a good first step in qualification where experience and OJT is in short supply.

https://www.jccc.edu/academics/credit/railroad-science/

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Posted by 243129 on Wednesday, February 19, 2020 4:07 PM

Text of one of many letters I sent to other corporate officers and then-Vice President of Operations D.J.Stadtler. Prophetic?

December 1, 2013

Mr. Stadtler:
  It has been a while (seven months) since we left off with your promises of teamwork, further communication, feedback etc (see attached emails). I feel as though my and my veteran co-workers efforts at offering suggestions and observations to improve our overall product with special attention to T&E training procedures have been paid 'lip service'.
That being said the recent embarrassing debacle in Philadelphia on November 19, which by the way received coverage nationally and internationally(see links below), has prompted me once again to try to impress upon you the fact that the training program for T&E new hires is a failure. I am sure that your "training council" would take umbrage at that statement and should they wish to challenge that statement I would be happy to oblige in qualifying it with an invitation to them and yourself to come to New Haven and witness first hand the end result of said training programs.
What happened in Philadelphia is inexcusable. An Amtrak train with 130 passengers whose well being is entrusted to a train crew that had absolutely no idea where they were going but kept going 6.1 miles!  It never should have happened  and poor training is the culprit. Think what could have happened. Once again Amtrak has 'dodged a bullet' so to speak and no one was injured or killed, thankfully. How long can luck hold out? Not much longer and here is why. The seasoned veteran workforce is dwindling rapidly. The odds of there being at least one veteran crew member to bail out the poorly trained new hires is decreasing. Employees with 1 year of service are being turned out as conductors. My previous prediction of an inexperienced and poorly trained crew being the RX for disaster is becoming a reality. Amtrak was lucky with the Philadelphia incident perhaps next time not so lucky. I fervently hope that will not be the case.
I have previously sent to you correspondences that I have submitted to various corporate officers, some responded to, most ignored, to which you promised feedback . I urge you to read them. They contain suggestions and observations which myself and my veteran co-workers feel can help with the betterment of our product.
 
Should you feel that my continued correspondences with you are becoming bothersome please let me know in no uncertain terms. I have been outspoken and direct with you and expect the same in return. If you feel that the new "Strategic Plan" has the situation well in hand and no more input is required please say so and I shall trouble you no more.

Respectfully,

Joseph McMahon

New Haven Engineer

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Posted by jeffhergert on Wednesday, February 19, 2020 6:53 PM

rdamon
I think this has been called Choo-Choo U in other threads, but these kinds of programs / degrees seem to be a good first step in qualification where experience and OJT is in short supply.

https://www.jccc.edu/academics/credit/railroad-science/

 

It may give someone a leg up over other applicants, but it's really about the same training one would get at a major carrier.  And it doesn't solve the vetting problem some on hear think is so bad.

Jeff 

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Posted by jeffhergert on Wednesday, February 19, 2020 7:03 PM

Euclid

I don't know what current vetting Amtrak performs, but I think it needs to go much deeper than just background checks, past work history, general interviews, etc.  That is the vetting of 20-50 years ago.  All railroads do at least that kind of vetting. 

 

That's the pre-employment vetting which is about all one can do.  You do know that during the probationary period, which may vary between companies, the new-hire is being evaluated by the field personnel, often the "old heads" willing to train students.  Not everyone makes it through.  And it may be true that even the longest probationary period may not be enough, how long should it take?  You have to draw the line somewhere.

CNW did give a personality test during the hiring sessions to see if one 'fit' the railroad.

Jeff 

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Posted by jeffhergert on Wednesday, February 19, 2020 7:17 PM

Lithonia Operator

 

 
jeffhergert

 

 
Lithonia Operator

Jeff, what was the nature of the training conducted between that initial one-week stint and the time spent at the community college?

 

 

 

All time between classroom and after Salt Lake City was on the job training.  Operating the engine under the supervision of the engineer.  We did a week of yard switching, a week of local freight, and the rest was being assigned to a pool turn on each of the road pools out of my home terminal.  Before Salt Lake City, you're termed a "fireman in training."  After SLC and the final test there, you're now termed an 'engineer in training.'  Until you get set-up, you're informally known as a "fireman" and termed to be "firing." 

On the road pools, you got whatever type of train that came up in rotation.  Now, when trainees get assigned to a pool, they work first in-first out.  (Trainmen's training also made that change for road training.  It's partly to run them through the training programs faster.)  I think it's better, at least at first, to be working with the same trainer.  They can see how someone is progressing, what areas may need more instruction, what areas don't.  Working with someone different every trip, even each leg of a trip, the instructor won't know where the student is at in that respect.

Jeff 

 

 

 

During this OJT, how much time is the student at the controls? Hardly ever? Half the time? Most of the time?

 

Usually most, if not all of the time.  When I was learning, the only time I recall not operating was when my training engineer asked me to help guide our conductor (recently set-up and on his own) into an intermediate yard to make a pick up.  If I have a student, he/she is going to run them, with instruction when needed.  That's how you learn.

Others may have had different experiences.

Jeff

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Posted by Euclid on Wednesday, February 19, 2020 7:43 PM

jeffhergert
 
Euclid

I don't know what current vetting Amtrak performs, but I think it needs to go much deeper than just background checks, past work history, general interviews, etc.  That is the vetting of 20-50 years ago.  All railroads do at least that kind of vetting. 

 

 

 

That's the pre-employment vetting which is about all one can do.  You do know that during the probationary period, which may vary between companies, the new-hire is being evaluated by the field personnel, often the "old heads" willing to train students.  Not everyone makes it through.  And it may be true that even the longest probationary period may not be enough, how long should it take?  You have to draw the line somewhere.

CNW did give a personality test during the hiring sessions to see if one 'fit' the railroad.

Jeff 

 

I am thinking of a much more extensive vetting with sophisticated personality tests like one might consider for finding the so called right stuff for fighter aircraft pilots.  I am guess that this has never been done in railroad hiring.  But what we are talking about as being problematic is only Amtrak and not the freight railroads.  So I am thinking this more extensive, intense vetting would be done only for Amtrak hiring. 

What do you mean when you say pre-employment vetting is about all you can do?  Why couldn't this more extensive and intense level vetting, be done either before or after hiring? They could do the more basic vetting such as background checks before hiring, and then consider the more refined vetting as a secondary phase if they pass the first phase. 

That higher level vetting would not be anything like a probationary period.  The higher level vetting would be targeted to find problems not having anything to do with monitoring how well a person keeps up with training.   

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Posted by Randy Stahl on Wednesday, February 19, 2020 8:10 PM

Late last year I had a phone (job) interiew with the FRA. I was asked what I saw as the biggest challenge and issue facing the rail industry. My reply was " unqualified supervisors managing unqualified employees". A good employee will rise to the level of the bar set by his supervisor. An unqualified supervisor doesn't know where to set that bar or to offer any kind of mentoring.

He then asked what my ideas were to correct the situaltion, My first thought was of Optimus Prime pulling the spine out of some random deceptacon.. I said "I honestly didn't know".

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Posted by samfp1943 on Wednesday, February 19, 2020 9:47 PM

Randy Stahl

Late last year I had a phone (job) interiew with the FRA. I was asked what I saw as the biggest challenge and issue facing the rail industry. My reply was " unqualified supervisors managing unqualified employees". A good employee will rise to the level of the bar set by his supervisor. An unqualified supervisor doesn't know where to set that bar or to offer any kind of mentoring.

He then asked what my ideas were to correct the situaltion, My first thought was of Optimus Prime pulling the spine out of some random deceptacon..

"...I said "I honestly didn't know"..."   

  An answer, which seems o be both Honest, and Informed.   Possibly, a response that would be the management equivalent to the problem faced in Washington, D.C.....What is needed is likely, a 'Draining of the Swamp'.   SighMy 2 Cents

 

 

 


 

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Posted by daveklepper on Thursday, February 20, 2020 8:59 AM

Randy, I may have an answer, but it is not simple.  Complex problems seldom have simple answers.

1.  All railroads have training classes.  What is needed is to make them more effecive and more universal.  Select engine, condictor, signal, track, car and locomotive maintenance regular staff workers, who are about to retire, should be offered the opportunity 

to continue to work for the company as teachers.  And they should continue to be able to belong to their unions.

2.  Those volunteering veted by teachers from college and university schools of education before starting their new jobs, should first review existing training programs on the basis of their own long years of exerience, and then as quickly as possible work with the existing teaching administrative staff, to implement the changes in the program

3.  There should be spot checks in all areas by the experienced teachers on the performance of newly trained people.  These spot checks should be designed to suggest imrovement in performance, not a basis for firing.

Like this idea?  Well, I think my idea for local serving and take-out high-quality broad-menue station restaurants. to make Amtrak LDTs worth riding and possibly profitable, is also imortant and practical.

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Thursday, February 20, 2020 1:53 PM

David: Some very sensible ideas there!!

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Posted by 243129 on Saturday, February 22, 2020 11:22 AM

Randy Stahl
Late last year I had a phone (job) interiew with the FRA. I was asked what I saw as the biggest challenge and issue facing the rail industry. My reply was " unqualified supervisors managing unqualified employees". A good employee will rise to the level of the bar set by his supervisor. An unqualified supervisor doesn't know where to set that bar or to offer any kind of mentoring.

Totally agree. A major contributing factor in the Dupont (and other) disasters.

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Posted by tree68 on Saturday, February 22, 2020 1:55 PM

daveklepper
2.  Those volunteering veted by teachers from college and university schools of education before starting their new jobs, should first review existing training programs on the basis of their own long years of exerience, and then as quickly as possible work with the existing teaching administrative staff, to implement the changes in the program

All fire instructors in NYS must attend instructor schools.  These have less to do with the courses offered (if at all) and everything to do with how to teach.  In fact, there are "Instructor I" and "Instructor II" classes.  Many courses can be taught by those with just Instructor I, but some need Instructor II.

Right now we have an "Intro to Instruction" class going, aimed at those who wish to simply be able to assist existing instructors with certain portions of firefighting training, or perhaps move on into the instructor ranks.

As background - In this area, the bulk of the training is done nights and weekends to volunteers who come from all walks of life.  NY currently trains to the Firefighter I level in two steps - first is the Basic Exterior Firefighter Operations course, where no actual firefighting takes place, followed by the Interior Firefighter Operations course, where students do practice actual firefighting.

A problem we encounter is that some portions of the courses require up to five instructors.  Most of the instructors do this on a time-available basis (ie, most are still working), and occasionally we struggle to find enough instructors.  The "Intro" students will have the basics to assist in some portions of that training.

The take-away here is that those experienced employees still need that piece - learning how to instruct.  The best engineer in the world can make a poor instructor.  Even those putting the program together need this, so they can meld their experience with appropriate teaching methods.

LarryWhistling
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Everyone goes home; Safety begins with you
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There's one thing about humility - the moment you think you've got it, you've lost it...

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Saturday, February 22, 2020 4:26 PM

In Illinois, many/all firefighters receive their training in different elements of their craft in certification programs at several community colleges,  such as College of DuPage. Chicago has a stand  alone academy,  as I recall. 

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Posted by daveklepper on Saturday, February 22, 2020 10:28 PM

There are people who have a natural ability to teach,  possibly developed because of observations when they were students and observed what worked for them as students and remembered.  Others require training.

As a student, continuing through age 60-61 when auditing courses at Yeshiva U., and even now at the Yeshiva, I waa impressed by teachers who have a seating chart, begin the first class by asking each student's name and marking it on his or her chart, and then in some cases asking why each student in turn why he or she is taking the course and/or what he or she hopes to receive from it. Then the teacher either memorizes the chart or has it on the podium or desk for reference, and always addresses each student by name.

I did have the opportunity of using these ideas at City College before moving to Israel in 1996.

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Saturday, February 22, 2020 11:27 PM

My opinion is that a lot of the pedagogy taught by education departments is of questionable effectiveness,  often based on research that is not empirically sound. 

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Posted by Miningman on Saturday, February 22, 2020 11:30 PM

Definitely agree , both with David and Charlie H.

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Posted by Overmod on Sunday, February 23, 2020 10:15 AM

One of the great buzzword ideas a few decades ago was the 'train-the-trainer' program, some of which derived emphasis from flight instruction.  This was rather sensibly applied as a 'free resource' for those in nominally 'instructional' relationships -- those who didn't or couldn't care less could ignore them; those who wanted access to Bene Gesserit lore were provided with ... well, in a good program, progressively all they could handle.

Presumably also, in a good system, those who opt for the training get preference in advancement -- for positions that involve training as a requirement or optimization -- just as many do today for having had 'diversity' training  (which often involves many of the same skills and developed qualities for 'different learning aptitudes and strategies')

You can see the obvious challenges in implementing this in a culture based on and still steeped in seniority...

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