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On-the-job training program puts new Metro mechanics on a career track

Friday February 03, 2012

Clutching shiny new torque wrenches - a symbol of their trade - 13 newly certified Metro bus mechanics joined the ranks of a new profession, Wednesday, during graduation ceremonies at the Metro Support Services Center in downtown Los Angeles.

31st Mechanic-C OJT Class of 2012
31st Mechanic-C OJT Class of 2012 graduates are, back row, from left, Isaac Garcia, Fernando Ortez, Kevin Serapion, David Moreno, Alex Gonzalez, Eddie Acosta, instructor Brian Markey, Alex Cortez, Steve Patterson, Robert Magana and foreground, from left, Quan Nguyen, Fernando Mera, Tony Quach, Eliazar Lazano. Photos by Luis Inzunza/Metro

The graduates had mastered an intense 18-month course taught by Equipment Maintenance Instructor Brian Markey. The course combined technical classroom instruction with on-the-job training in operating division maintenance shops, where they learned to diagnose and repair performance-related bus problems, including trouble-shooting transmissions, engines, electrical components, brakes, and air conditioning.

    Fernando Mera, left, and Isaac Garcia get ready for work as a Metro mechanic.
    Newly certified mechanics Fernando Mera, left, and Isaac Garcia.

Fernando Mera has worked for Metro nearly 4 years as a service attendant. On Monday, he'll report to his home division in West Hollywood as a mechanic. Isaac Garcia, who landed a job as a service attendant shortly after graduating from high school, will report to Sun Valley on Monday morning. It's a long haul where he lives in Rialto, but it's worth it. "I'm not sure what exactly I'll be assigned to do," he said, "but I'm sure I'll like it."

All 13 of the new mechanics started their Metro careers as service attendants, a well-respected cadre of workers who keep rail stations, buses and facilities clean.

They were selected by union seniority from 132 service attendants who had applied for the highly competitive program, said Steve Mullaly, the Equipment Maintenance Instruction Manager who directs the program.

The mechanics training classes are convened under an agreement negotiated some 30 years ago between Metro and the ATU Local 1277, which represents maintenance employees.

Trainees attend half-day classroom sessions twice a week, on their own time, for nine months before they advance to on-the-job training as journeymen alongside a certified mechanic.

The program, known as OJT for on the job training, puts service attendants on a career track with a new trade and opportunities for advancement. And, the learning never stops.

"The new buses that Metro buys today, will be completely different next year and every year after that. Everything's changing and that's why you need to evolve in your profession," General Manager Richard Hunt told the graduates at the ceremony, attended by proud family members of the new mechanics.

"I hope this training has opened new doors for you," instructor Markey told the graduates. "Keep learning!"

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