Last month, Bob Spence from Peguis First Nation became the first Aboriginal man to receive the Winnipeg Transit 2012 Bus Operator of the Year Award. Bob has over 29 years of service as a Bus Operator and has received the Operator of the Month Award on two other occasions.
The award is based on service record, attendance, and accomodation, and Bob has shown his true dedication since first starting with Winnipeg Transit back in 1984. “Bob has demonstrated that Aboriginal people can not only succeed but also excel as Bus Operators with Winnipeg Transit,” said Darrell Sais, Assistant Human Resources Coordinator. “He is a great role model for other Aboriginal people, including those in your readership, and he has proven that we as Aboriginal people can have very successful careers with Winnipeg Transit and the City of Winnipeg as a whole.” Darrell says he remembers how Bob welcomed him into the Winnipeg Transit family when he started his career as a Bus Operator. “He continues to be a very positive role model for me and others at Winnipeg Transit. I can only hope one day that I will be as well respected as Bob within our organization!”
At 25-years-old, Bob was referred by a friend to apply for the Core Interior Training Program with the City of Winnipeg, a program geared to recruit and employ Aboriginal people. He began training as a bus operator, and within two years was driving regular bus routes in the city. Bob said that of the eight First Nations trainees that started with him back in 1984, about four remained with winnipeg Transit and the rest either left or changed their careers. “I really like this job, and I encourage younger Aboriginal people to consider Bus Operator as a career. The benefits are good, and the pay is good as well,” Bob said. “I am very honoured to recieve this award, and I am quite happy that I stayed with Winnipeg Transit—30 years this June.”
Over the years Bob, would get his fair share of observations by Aboriginal transit users, but all positive comments. “They usually would say it is nice to see a First Nations bus operator and there should be more Aboriginal bus operators,” Bob said. “Winnipeg has the highest Aboriginal urban population in Canada, and in my opinion, there aren’t any First Nations considering bus operators as a career.”
In 2013, Winnipeg Tranist will be hiring over 100 Bus Operators, and to date, 50 new Bus Operators have been hired. “However, it is disappointing to see very few Aboriginal people apply for this position, and we hope you will share our thinking that an article in First Nations Drum on Bob’s success will help spread the word about the great careers opportunities that are waiting for Aboriginal people at Winnipeg Transit,” said Darrel. “We really believe that having more Aboriginal people in Winnipeg Transit careers will benefit the entire city of Winnipeg.”