Amtrak welcomes diversity aboard
The nation's only intercity passenger rail provider and high-speed rail operator offers a wide selection of job types in engineering and IT
Shortly after midnight on May 1, 1971, an express train known as Clocker No. 235 departed New York City's Penn Station headed to Philadelphia. That was the beginning of the National Railroad Passenger Corporation, more commonly known as Amtrak. It was created by Congress seven months earlier through the Rail Passenger Service Act to revitalize U.S. passenger rail service that had been steadily eroding since the end of World War II.
Forty years later Amtrak is still the nation's intercity passenger rail provider and its only high-speed rail operator. It provides service to more than 500 destinations across forty-six states and three Canadian provinces. In the 2011 fiscal year Amtrak carried a record 30.2 million passengers.
Kevin Marshall is Amtrak's director of diversity initiatives. "We offer a wide selection of job types in engineering and IT, ranging from lineman maintainers, supervisors and division engineers to analysts, senior specialists and system engineers," he says. "We generally look for qualified, dedicated professionals with work experience and/or relevant skill sets who are self-motivated, detail-oriented, well organized and possess good communication skills, a commitment to safety and the ability to handle multiple tasks."
In engineering, Amtrak usually looks for pros with backgrounds in CE, EE, ME and IE as well as construction management, communications and signals, capital acquisitions and program management. On the IT side the company seeks experience in systems design and development, network engineering and architecture and business intelligence.
The February 2009 American Recovery & Reinvestment Act led to the development of major projects all over the U.S., creating a variety of new job opportunities. "Amtrak has projected that this trend will continue throughout our operations, particularly in areas of engineering and IT, to accommodate the growing focus on high-speed rail infrastructure development and security," says Marshall.
Amtrak works to tap a diverse pool of qualified candidates, he explains. "We leverage partnership opportunities with diversity-focused organizations, as well as schools and universities. "Through our professional development and outreach programs we target candidates that include college students and new grads. We offer them exposure to challenging real-world experience and assist in their professional skills development as management associates, co-ops or summer interns.
"We also encourage our employees to partner with diverse, technically-focused organizations to promote employee engagement and offer potential applicants firsthand insight in what we do."
Amtrak employs more than 20,000 people and understands the value of diversity as a social and business imperative. Its corporate culture includes a commitment to diversity in all areas of the organization. "Key to maintaining this appreciation is Amtrak's diversity training program, which makes clear the corporation's position on diversity and provides the background, information and resources necessary to work successfully in a diverse environment," Marshall notes.
"Our diversity training program is designed to be an ongoing journey that emphasizes key principles of diversity and inclusion. Since its inception it has been an important vehicle used to make certain that employees have a clear understanding of the company's expectations for sustaining a diverse, inclusive environment."
Amtrak's numbers are impressive. Overall, a quarter of its employees are women and two out of five are persons of color. In the management ranks almost a third are women and a third are persons of color. African Americans make up the largest minority group, followed by Hispanics.
For new hires in Amtrak management, 37 percent are women and 37 percent persons of color. After African Americans, Asians and Hispanics are best represented.
Amtrak provides diversity training, and implements a number of initiatives that promote diversity and inclusion. Marshall notes that Amtrak encourages diversity councils, teams and taskforces. "We established a cross-cultural council," he says, "a team made up of employees representing various ethnic groups, departments, job rankings and schools of thought, to ensure that diversity remains a priority at Amtrak. Members develop strategies that demonstrate Amtrak's commitment to diversity, and act as champions to facilitate diversity initiatives in their geographic areas or departments."
There's also the Amtrak mentor program. It provides professional support and insight to promote industry knowledge transfer and facilitate the development of future leaders of the corporation.
Amtrak focuses on evaluation, promotion and succession planning as well. "We are dedicated to promoting an equitable work environment and ensuring a succession plan to mitigate industry knowledge drain," Marshall says. "We also use our performance evaluation process to offer top performers appropriate promotions.
"As part of our commitment to equal employment opportunity, Amtrak monitors all employment practices and employee movement to ensure that no adverse impact or other barriers exist for women, people of color, veterans or persons with disabilities," Marshall declares.
||$2.51 billion in 2010
||National intercity rail service