Chicago Residents Getting on Track with Railroad Jobs
By Shannon Holmes
September 8, 2003
The City of Chicago has established a partnership with the City Colleges of Chicago to offer a unique employer-designed railroad conductor training program. In 2001 Congress passed legislation, which reduces the retirement age of railroad employees from 62 to 60. As a result the railroad industry is facing a retirement bubble with its current aged workforce.
The CSX Corporation, based in Jacksonville with operations in the Chicago metropolitan area and throughout the country, has developed the curriculum and testing for the Railroad Hiring Initiative training program to meet a growing industry need for conductors and locomotive engineers.
"Over the next five to seven years, a huge number of employees will retire," Ray Wolf, manager of training for CSX, stated. "We-re trying to meet demand by having the colleges as partners."
The Railroad Hiring Initiative helps qualified individuals, with high school degrees, enroll in a five-week conductor-training program at Richard J. Daley College to study topics such as signaling and basic and advanced train movement.
"This initiative takes advantage of recent changes in the industry and utilizes relationships with employers to get local workers into the positions that are beginning to open up," Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley stated.
The Mayor's Office of Workforce Development (MOWD) has used Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) to provide $600,000 in training funds for the program.
"In addition to working with CSX, we-re now reaching out to companies such as Union Pacific Railroad Company and Norfolk Southern Corporation," explained MOWD Commissioner Jackie Edens. "MOWD is committed to building relationships with businesses that help them recruit, train, and place Chicago workers. We want to ensure the safety, growth and profitability of Chicago's railroad industry."
Neither CSX nor Union Pacific guarantee employment, but they do guarantee interviews at the end of training. Due to the fact that the five -week training program is run based on industry demand, the probability of those completing the training getting jobs with these, and other area companies, increases.
So far, over 113 Chicago residents have secured employment as freight conductors since completing the City's Railroad Hiring Initiative program, which claims a 98 percent job replacement rate.
The industry is expected to hire thousands of people all over the country within four years to fill the jobs of retiring staff and has partnered with seven additional colleges across the country to help address its future hiring needs.
For more information about Chicago's Railroad Hiring Initiative please call (312) 746-7777.