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Teens get taste of T jobs during internship program

Yawu Miller
Yawu Miller is the former senior editor of the Bay State Banner. He has written for the Banner since 1988.... VIEW BIO
Teens get taste of T jobs during internship program
Jeannette Rodriguez (center) talks about her experience working in the Everett Bus Garage during the graduation ceremony for the Transportation Training Immersion Program.

George McDermott learned how to replace brake lines, repair front differentials and remove and replace air brake systems. Marc Nelson got to work on steering and suspension systems. Gabriel Diaz learned how to rewire servers.

“We received actual knowledge about how servers worked,” Barbosa Diaz said.

Each of the 30 students who participated in this year’s Transportation Training Immersion Program spoke glowingly about their hands-on experiences working in MBTA service yards, Internet Technology centers and in the Real Estate/Safety/Security office.

The students, most of whom attend Madison Park Vocational Technical High School, spoke during a graduation celebration held last month at the state Transportation Building. They spoke about how the program helped them better understand subject matter they studied in high school.

“It incorporated all of the skills I’ve tried to learn by myself,” said Boston Latin Academy student Andy Quiñones, who worked with the MBTA’s Computer/IT Department.

With 30 students enrolled, the program has nearly doubled from last year, when 17 teenagers participated. It also has added in an academic component, where students can engage their study of math and science through their projects.

“It’s been so exciting to see how this has gone,” said Penny Nichols, the project leader.

The program serves both the teens and the MBTA, which needs a pipeline of new talent to work in its repair facilities and offices.

“It’s an important recruiting opportunity for the MBTA to bring in people who are skilled,” Nichols said. “Fifty percent of our workforce is going to retire in the next five years.”

As the MBTA prepares for that exodus of skilled workers, it faces a challenge of finding applicants with the requisite skills and experience. Until 10 years ago, the agency accepted unskilled job applicants. But now the MBTA requires workers to have two to four years of experience and pass a skills test.

Many students say they want to find work at the MBTA.

“My goal in life is to become a MassDOT/MBTA employee,” said McDermott, who worked at the Arlington Avenue garage, learning, among other things, how to repair leaf spring pins.

“That was the hardest thing,” he said.

The MBTA has worked out an arrangement with Expressway Toyota where the car dealership will hire students who worked as mechanics in the Transportation Training Immersion Program. The arrangement enables the students to gain the requisite experience.

“They can have the years of experience they need, then feed back into the MBTA,” Nichols said.

The students worked Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in the field, then received academic instruction on Fridays.

Madison Park Technical Vocational High School Executive Director Kevin McCaskill says the program is popular with the students.

“It gives the students valuable skills,” he said. “We look forward to an even bigger and better program in the future.”