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'Going to need a lot more staff': TransLink to hire 500 workers by 2028

"This is a 24/7 operation, seven days a week."

TransLink is on a hiring spree, hoping to hire 500 SkyTrain workers by 2028.

That’s a 40 per cent increase to TransLink’s current workforce of 1,200.

Jobs ahead of SkyTrain expansion

It’s a response to upcoming major SkyTrain projects including the Surrey-Langley SkyTrain, scheduled to open in 2028, and the Broadway Subway project planned for 2025.

“As a result, we’re going to need a lot more staff, and we’re looking long-term,” said TransLink spokesperson Thor Diakow.

In the short term, the transit company is looking to hire 300 workers.

“This is a special kind of rail system that not a lot of people are familiar with, so it takes a certain amount of skill, and it takes a lot of tradespeople,” Diakow said.

Qualified applicants who apply by Oct. 17 will be invited to a recruitment event at the Burnaby operations and maintenance centre (OMC) on Oct. 29.

The Burnaby NOW visited TransLink’s OMC in Burnaby, just a short walk from Edmonds SkyTrain station, and spoke to workers about life on the job.

‘A 24/7 operation’

“This is all in-house training,” said Andrew Schmuland, guideway shop supervisor. “There is no journeyman certificate for this. It’s all just hands-on learning. For our technicians, we have a nine-month training program.”

SkyTrain workers come from a variety of backgrounds, including traditional rail, oil and gas, welding, electrical and engineering.

Guideway technician Carlos Silva started at TransLink in 1985.

He works at the test bench for the switch machine.

It’s a loud and whirring device that switches the SkyTrain tracks, allowing trains to change tracks, like from Columbia onto Braid or over the bridge to Surrey.

The German-manufactured mechanisms are tested 200 times before going out to the tracks.

“Some (switches) have been out there for 30-something years. They come back with over a million cycles (of switches), and they’re still working,” said Silva.

He said, as far as he knows, TransLink employees are the only group certified to operate the special machinery.

“This is a 24/7 operation, seven days a week,” said Diakow, adding TransLink is working with B.C. Women in Trades to make sure that it’s an equitable and diverse company.

Schmuland added people often ask why SkyTrains don’t run all night.

“Then these guys can’t do their work. We need that time to actually do rail replacements, any kind of maintenance that would keep the trains running during the day. If we don’t have that opportunity to get out there and work, then the system wouldn’t be running very long,” he said.

SkyTrain fleet changes

The SkyTrain fleet totals 364 cars. The operation plans to replace the 150 original ‘80s Mark I trains with 205 new Mark V cars by 2028.

SkyTrain is in talks regarding what to do with the decommissioned cars – with some ideas floated from what previous cities have done, including turning them into coffee shops, museums or an artificial reef.

Nothing is set in stone at this point, but TransLink hopes to have a plan in 2024.

The SkyTrain operations and maintenance centre (OMC) in Burnaby, where the train fleet is serviced, can hold more than 250 cars.

A new OMC is planned for Coquitlam, near New Westminster’s Braid station.

Various roles need to be filled, including:

  • Elevator escalator technician ($58.41 per hour)
  • Vehicle technician ($54.29 per hour)
  • Power technician ($50.11 per hour)
  • Electronic technician ($50.11 per hour)
  • Guideway technician ($49.47 per hour)
  • Maintenance scheduler ($48.83 per hour)
  • Guideway support equipment technician (heavy duty mechanic) ($50.11 per hour)

More positions and wages can be found on TransLink’s career opportunities page.

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