Public transport simulation technology isn’t a solution by itself—it’s a tool for extending and supercharging your entire training program. But like any powerful, complex (and expensive!) tool, an organization cannot get the most out of it if no one takes “ownership” of that tool. Billy Cameron has spent his career in transit. Over the past 21 years with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA, the fifth-largest transit authority in the U.S.), he’s worked as a vehicle operator and instructor and now serves as MBTA’s Superintendent of Bus Training.
Cameron has used immersive full-cab simulators in his MBTA’s training programs since 2006, training thousands of employees on their public transport simulation technology.
In light of all of his experience, Cameron firmly believes that the most important element of a public transport simulation training program isn’t any specific technological component: It’s your training team.
Building a solid training team from the start is the key to getting results from your public transport simulation program.
Step 1. Gather Your Simulation Team
Find a group of people in your organization (regardless of their current role) who connect with the simulation technology on some level. Preferably, do this early in your purchase process, so their insights can inform your sim buying decisions.
“You have to identify which instructor or instructors are going to have the talent to maintain and develop the curriculum,” Cameron notes. It’s important to keep in mind that this is a matter of technical acumen and curiosity, not prior training, experience, or current job title. Cameron points out that when he first began using simulator technology, he had a high school diploma and no more advanced training, certification, or computer science/programming experience.
“You don’t have to have a degree from Microsoft University to use this piece of equipment,” he notes. You just need to be someone who “isn’t intimidated by technology … [or] afraid to break it.”
That said, age can be a factor. “I’ll be honest,” Cameron explains, “In my experience, [you often have] a digital divide: You have older instructors who don’t have smartphones, don’t use email, and the technology is a little intimidating to them. But [you] also have a younger generation … who grew up on technology…playing video games, having a [mobile] phone, working on computers, and things like that.”
Step 2. Instructor Buy-In
First and foremost, no training initiative (simulation-based or otherwise) can succeed if the instructors don’t believe in it. Sometimes, a lack of buy-in comes back to that digital divide, with some trainers being uncomfortable with the idea of a new technology.
But also, even with a very technologically adept training staff, if they have the sense that something new is “being shoved down their throat,” they will resist—even if it’s a solution that they might otherwise embrace.
“You want to go in with a positive attitude,” Cameron says, “and [a willingness] to introduce new ideas… and new ways to train our operators with the simulator.”
This doesn’t just work to ensure that your program—as planned—gains traction. It also greatly increases the likelihood that you’ll get the most out of that sim because the instructors will be constantly looking at ways to push the program further.
Step 3. Develop a Succession Plan
Very few agencies set up a proper succession plant. They make one person “the expert,” and then either fail to encourage (or actively discourage) that person from training up a support team.
“If I hit the lottery Megabucks and left the organization, they’d be stuck, or have to start all over with another instructor.” While that lottery scenario is unlikely, losing your instructor is not, Cameron says. “People do get promoted, people retire, people get sick, so you definitely want to have a team of instructors…who are able to keep the program running continuously.”
Having a team of trainers with a clear “line of succession” ensures that a series of unfortunate events doesn’t leave a perfectly good simulator gathering dust.
For more insights into how to get results with public transport simulation technology, check out FAAC’s recent webinar and free downloadable ebook: “Engagement Training for Mass Transit.”