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Wednesday Panel: Attracting and Retaining Employees

As baby boomers retire and millennials become an increasingly vital part of the workforce, the public transit industry will need to make changes to keep up, according to panelists at the WTS Wednesday Wake Up Breakfast.

Moderator Jannet Walker Ford, vice president & general manager, eastern region, Americas, Cubic Transportation Systems Inc., presented issues of importance in the workplace to a diverse panel.

“Young professionals are often attracted to a field because of a sense of purpose,” Ford said. She asked the panelists what had brought them to work in public transportation.

Elizabeth O’Neill, interim general manager/chief executive officer of the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA), started as a lawyer and focuses on the challenges of a diverse workforce.

Alice Bravo, director of the Miami-Dade Department of Transportation and Public Works, is a civil engineer who worked as a consultant before joining Florida DOT.

FTA Region 4 Administrator Yvette G. Taylor has worked for 28 years in the federal government, 12 in her current job.

Panelists, from left: Malika Reed Wilkins, Janet Gonzalez, Elizabeth O’Neill, moderator Jannet Walker Ford, Alice Bravo, Yvette Taylor, Richard Andreski and Nicholas Gowens.

Malika Reed Wilkins, senior principal, transportation marketing manager, mobility services division, Atlanta Regional Commission, and president, WTS Georgia Chapter, started in law enforcement and safety before she discovered new commute options that enhanced her work-life balance.

Nicholas C. Gowans, MARTA marketing coordinator and vice chair, Young Professionals in Transportation, Atlanta Chapter, “fell into using public transit” when he could not drive to work and realized how much ease and freedom the change gave him.

Janet R. Gonzalez, transportation sustainability director and associate vice president, HDR, comes from a background in architecture and design and realized the role of public transit in providing opportunities to a community.

Richard W. Andreski, bureau chief, public transportation, Connecticut DOT, was a longtime commuter who “wanted to make a difference.”

The panelists made suggestions to make the workplace more attractive, such as including young professionals in decision making, inclusiveness, seeking and accepting new ideas, flexible work hours and mentoring. These help keep employees from feeling pigeonholed by allowing them to take initiative and try different opportunities within an organization.

Atkins sponsored the session.

During the Wednesday breakfast session, Diane Woodend Jones, chair, WTS International, and chairman of the board and principal, Lea+Elliott Inc., signed a Memorandum of Understanding between her organization and APTA. APTA Immediate Past Chair Doran J. Barnes and Chair Nathaniel P. Ford Sr. also signed the document.

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