Stadler strives to meet its own skilled workforce needs in its new U.S. location by creating an innovative apprenticeship program that engages students beginning their senior year in high school.

A dual-education model that’s widespread in Europe but particularly well-executed in Switzerland is the cornerstone of workforce development in Stadler’s home country. When compulsory schooling ends for 15- or 16-year-old Swiss students, they can move into either an academic, traditional high school program or a vocational track split between traditional schooling and work experience that provides 21st century skills for in-demand jobs.

About 70 percent of students choose the apprenticeship program. This is the educational model familiar to Swiss-based Stadler, which has about 11,000 employees worldwide.

When Stadler opened its U.S. manufacturing plant in Salt Lake City in 2017, its biggest challenge was quickly finding a skilled workforce in a country that relies much more heavily on training employees on the job. “At the end of the day, we were used to a certain baseline of education in Europe in terms of skills,” Ritter said.

So Stadler set out to transform the educational system in its new home, creating an apprenticeship model called the Talent Ready Apprenticeship Connection (TRAC) with the help of partners including Salt Lake Community College, the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, Salt Lake City School District and the Salt Lake Education Foundation. The group created two tracks, Automatic Technician and Production Technician, with the goal of creating a “baseline education with a theory and a practical part,” Ritter said, that a student could bring to any number of different careers.

Read the article on page 98 of APTA’s Transit Workforce Readiness Guide.

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