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Star "Techs": The Next Generation

As Road Talk reported in February 2002, MTO and the Operations Division are developing new ways to recruit employees into its workforce. One of these youth recruitment efforts is the Transportation Technician (TT) initiative. TTs are entry-level permanent positions, designed to maintain MTO's technically knowledgeable workforce.

TTs start at the ministry with three years of rotational assignments. Single rotations can be of varying lengths, from less than six months to a year. During their rotational component, TTs have assignments in engineering, contracts (construction and maintenance), and operational services. TTs develop greater breadth than their private-sector colleagues through these practical and multifunctional learning experiences. TTs also benefit by making professional contacts and having access to opportunities to take on progressively challenging opportunities.

The concept for the TT initiative began in 2000, with the first wave of competitions occurring in May 2001. This initial group of TTs finished their rotations earlier this year in May. The creation of the TT initiative was in response to projected retirements in some of MTO's key technical positions by 2009. "A great deal of our senior technical staff will be retiring," said Sam Cheng, the chair of the original TT Steering Committee.

The focus on learning and the variety of areas of experience were the two major factors that attracted Derek Illman, a TT currently working in the Contracts Section in Southwestern Region, to the ministry. Illman came to the TT initiative after working in construction inspection in the private sector. "My experience in the private sector prior to joining the MTO did not include training/development as a high priority," said Illman. In contrast, MTO staff "takes time out of their schedules to teach or answer any questions that I have had." Illman has already completed rotations in the Geotechnical Section and the Planning and Design Section, working with applications such as the Highway Design System.

Erin McGowan, a TT now in the Planning and Design Section of Eastern Region, similarly noted that the TT position is a "constant opportunity to learn on the job and in the classroom." Being familiar with provincial government work from previous summer job experience, she saw the TT initiative as a way to "apply [her] educational background." McGowan's rotations have taken her to the Contracts Section, the Materials Engineering and Research Office, the Geotechnical Section, and Technical Services, Port Hope Area.

Breadth of experience was important for Robbie Nichol, a TT working in Bridge Maintenance. "In applying to MTO, I wanted to ... have the opportunity to work in a much broader field of operation within the transportation industry," he said. Nichol previously worked in COMPASS, MTO's freeway traffic management system, when the Fleet net radio system was implemented, and in the Materials Engineering and Research Office in the Concrete Section. The independence and significance of his work contributes to Nichol's job satisfaction: "It gives me a sense of pride that I'm doing something significant that affects people." Nichol also said the nature of the TT initiative meant it built upon his previous education. "It is a permanent career door with the chance to make the most of my interests, education, and find a place within the industry that suits me personally," he said.

Overall, the initiative has been invaluable in succession planning. "TTs are an integral part of the technical stream structure," said Cheng. The TT initiative is key in making sure Operations Division continues to have a capable technical staff working on every facet of Ontario's highway management system.

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