Industry Trends

Key Insights from the Transit Workforce Shortage Report

Apr 03, 2023 - Cat DiStasio

Like most industries in the U.S., the transit industry is experiencing ongoing worker shortages. The American Public Transit Association (APTA)’s Transit Workforce Shortage report, released in October 2022, explores the root causes of talent shortages in the transit industry, as well as potential solutions to help transit agencies attract and retain quality employees.

APTA found that nearly all (96%) of agencies surveyed reported a workforce shortage and a majority (84%) said the shortage is affecting their ability to provide service. While broader labor market predictions suggest employers will continue to grapple with talent shortages for years to come, all is not lost. Transit agencies can take advantage of many effective talent acquisition strategies that employers in other industries are using to identify, attract, and engage with qualified candidates even amid the ongoing talent shortage.

Transit Workforce Shortage Report Overview

Here are the key takeaways from APTA’s report, and possible solutions transit agencies can employ to attract more candidates.

Insight: Older workers are retiring

As is the case in nearly every other industry, older workers are approaching retirement in large numbers, and—depending on the stipulations of their union contracts—many transit workers may be eligible for retirement sooner than their peers working in other industries.

APTA Findings:

  • 24% of workers quitting transit agencies are retirees; at agencies in rural areas, 34% of departures are retirements
  • 43% of transit employees are age 55 or older, almost double the proportion of the broader transportation sector
  • 5-10 years: the time period in which rates of retirement will increase in the transit industry

Action items:

Insight: Transit agencies face difficulty attracting new workers.

With the older generation of workers heading into retirement, transit agencies need to look at the largest growing available pools of talent to fill those vacancies—Millennials and Gen Z.

APTA Findings:

  • Low unemployment and high job churn across the talent market means transit agencies are experiencing more competition for the same pool of potential hires.
  • 45% of departing employees took jobs outside the transit industry, more than those who retire or left the workforce combined
  • 35% of transit agency job offers are rejected, which is more than twice the rate across all industries.

Action items:

Insight: A complex regulatory framework poses additional challenges.

An increasingly complex regulatory framework is frequently translating into hiring slowdowns and delayed start dates—meaning candidates have more time to back out of the recruiting process, decline a job offer, or even revoke an offer acceptance.

APTA Findings:

  • Transit agencies are often forced to delay start dates or exclude otherwise qualified applicants due to rules about drug and alcohol testing, Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) requirements, criminal background checks, and driving records.
  • APTA and its partners should advocate for regulation reforms at the federal and state levels while ensuring that transit operators are well-qualified.

Action items:

  • Virtual hiring events can help transit agencies speed up the early phases of the recruiting process, building excitement and momentum with interested candidates.
  • For agencies with high-volume hiring needs, virtual recruiting events also streamline and expedite the hiring process.
  • Virtual onboarding events that help pre-hires connect with organizational culture can also keep people engaged and build a sense of belonging.

What’s next for the transit industry?

APTA promises continued resources for transit agencies navigating today’s talent shortages. Following the release of this report, the organization will press forward with agency case studies and frontline worker surveys to gain a deeper understanding of the online workforce shortage affecting the industry. Here at Brazen, we’ll be keeping tabs on the strategies and best practices that transit agencies are using to navigate the ongoing workforce shortage, and looking for more ways to use virtual events to help the transit industry conquer the challenges ahead.

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