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Rail News: Amtrak

OIG: Amtrak can do more to recruit, retain engineers

Amtrak can improve its recruitment and retention of skilled engineers in the currently tight labor market, the OIG reported.
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Amtrak has "opportunities" to improve its recruitment and retention of skilled engineers who may manage federally funded infrastructure projects, the Amtrak Office of Inspector General (OIG) reported yesterday.

While Amtrak has acted to improve its hiring and retention of an engineering workforce, the railroad can do more to ensure it will have enough skilled engineers employed to manage key rail infrastructure projects, OIG officials said in a press release.

Amtrak's Infrastructure Maintenance and Construction Services group (formerly engineering) will play a lead role in supporting Amtrak's objectives to build, repair and restore its infrastructure — especially under the funding opportunities available under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that Congress passed last year. As of April, the group had 192 engineering managers — including many with unique skill sets, such as managing overhead catenary systems. Amtrak plans to hire another 63 engineering managers by the end of fiscal-year 2022 (Sept. 30), OIG officials said.

The OIG report notes that Amtrak has taken action to improve its hiring and retention of skilled engineers in a tight labor market by adjusting the salaries of 393 engineers across the railroad, including 14 engineering managers; benchmarking management compensation with market rates; increasing salaries for field engineers; improving work-life balance practices; and offering one-time signing bonuses for employees who move into management.

However, despite having guidance for monitoring pay gaps between managers and subordinates, the railroad has fallen behind on doing so. Also, Amtrak could analyze workforce data to help the group better assess recruitment and retention efforts.

The OIG made three recommendations to minimize future engineer recruitment and retention challenges. Amtrak management agreed with the recommendations and plans to address them, OIG officials said.

The full report can be viewed here.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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