Get on the Bus

Florida school bus technicians go back to the classroom every June.


Twenty-five technicians took the Shop Service Manager test, but only seven passed, a tribute to FAPT's high standards. After all, if the test was easy, it wouldn't mean much.

"We designed it to be a hard test," Morgan admits. "I was surprised how many people got in their cars and drove here to take the test, so there is interest out there for it.

"Some of them asked about it afterwards: 'How am I supposed to know what to do if there's an accident?' Well," Morgan says, "if you're the manager, your technicians are going to go out to accident sites, and you'll need to know what needs to be done."

WAIT UNTIL NEXT YEAR

The 2007 event is barely over and Morgan and his committee are already at work on next year's Workshop.

"We send out a registration packet, and that gives you all these choices of all these different classes," says Morgan. "Then we get feedback from the districts, which we will have in time for the September meeting, and then we choose which classes we need to add and which classes we will no longer offer. For instance, there were actually a few classes for different air conditioner systems but not enough students registered, so we cancelled them. The vendors were nice enough to be very co-operative."

FAPT has a state bid purchasing group for vehicles and equipment, and every purchase contract has a provision that manufacturers must supply a certain amount of training if a certain number of units are purchased by the state. The manufacturers would supply the training willingly, Morgan explains, whether it was in the contract or not.

Selecting classes for the next Workshop is a complicated task, involving the students' input, the trainers' requests, and changes in technology. Some classes are offered every year, while others are rotated in and out as needed.

"This year we had paint and body repair. We do that about every two years, when we get enough feedback," Morgan explains. "The paint and body class was important this year, because the Thomas buses came out with a panel bonding on their new C2; that's a very innovative process, so it was important for us to offer paint and body paneling classes for this year.

"We have a parts specialist class that we offer every several years," he says. "Districts send their parts guys in, and Thomas, International and Blue Bird will send in instructors for that—we mix that up with all three companies, as they learn how to order parts, how to get warranty on parts, and the processes that the vendors have so you can get reimbursed."

FIRST-STRING

Morgan is proud to say that the Workshop is run in a professional manner: "They're in the classroom at eight o'clock. It's handled just like a college course, and the instructor's treated accordingly. The vendors send in their first-string teams, they're very experienced. I think because we run it the way we do, more knowledge is gained by the technician and I think they enjoy it more."

Class sizes are generally held to 12 to 15, although Permatex's Aulivola attracted an impressive 113 this year. "That's because she does such a good job at it," Morgan says.

"The technicians are so enthused!" he says. "The networking that the technicians can do at this event is inspirational. They're talking to each other all week about 'How do you fix this? How do you fix that?' Each district throughout the state may have different little things go wrong with the buses, so they get so much out of the networking they do."

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