Trained to Put Safety First

The two biggest challenges STA Training Instructor Mel Figuracion has faced since the coronavirus hit are speaking loud enough so his students can hear him with a mask on, and finding classrooms large enough to accommodate social distancing.

“Spokane Transit is continuing to move forward with transit projects regardless of this pandemic,” Figuracion said. “The Training Department needs to keep pace with the agency’s growth and make sure STA’s employees are well trained and ready to fill positions as needed.”

Keeping pace is something Figuracion has years of experience doing. He worked for both UPS and FedEx before coming to STA in 2009. In the packaging industry, Figuracion learned it’s all about moving quickly and maximizing your time is the name of the game.

“I still walk faster than anyone else in our department,” Figuracion laughed. “But in this job, it’s more important to be present and aware, because everything we do here is focused on safety. After all, we are delivering people, not packages.”

The Training Department is universal in that it provides training for STA coach operators and Paratransit van operators throughout their careers. Not only do STA’s instructors train coach and van operators and test for Class A, B, and C Commercial Driver’s Licenses, they provide CPR and First Aid certification, equipment operation and safety courses, and even offer retraining for people returning to work after prolonged absences.

Mel and his team are also continuously developing new training programs that are needed as STA introduces new products and services, like City Line, Spokane’s first Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line, which is slated to go into service in 2022. Sometimes, STA’s training instructors are even asked to host special training sessions for non-STA organizations.

“Recently we were invited to provide SNAP personnel with Special Utility Vehicle Training,” Figuracion said. “They needed instruction on securement techniques so they could safely transport people using wheelchairs on the vans donated to them through STA’s Van Grant program.”

Figuracion’s students and co-workers have grown used to his quirky humor and probably wouldn’t be too surprised to hear him suddenly start impersonating Mr. Miyagi from the “Karate Kid” movies. A strong sense of humor is one of the characteristics that makes Figuracion such a popular training instructor.

Although COVID-19 has created some new challenges in his job, Figuracion is proud to be considered an essential element of STA, and grateful to be healthy and able to provide training services wherever they are needed. He says he’s here to serve.

“My fellow training instructors and myself have a personal conviction to serve the public and that’s what propels us to keep moving forward,” Figuracion said. “We have to turn a negative into a positive and that’s what we are here to do every single day.”

Figuracion encourages his students to adopt that same attitude. He calls it practicing “grace under pressure”.

“Right now everyone is experiencing all types of stress – financially, physically, and mentally every day,” Figuracion said. “There’s a lot of unknowns, but you can’t let it bring you down. We’ll move past this, but for now, we all need to remember – ‘patience is a virtue’.”

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