MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — There are more than 400 mechanic-technicians working for Metro Transit.

More than half of them are over the age of 50.

Finding qualified replacements for those mechanics is not easy.

So to help, Metro Transit developed a program to train the next generation of mechanics.

That’s why workers like Tonya McClenton are being recruited.

(credit: CBS)

It will take a pipeline of skilled mechanics to stay on track when its aging workforce starts to retire. That’s why the Metro Transit Technician Program was created.

“I wanted to join this program for, you know, better opportunities for me to have a stable career and, you know, to support my family,” McClenton said.

The program allows participants to work full-time while earning a two-year associates degree at Hennepin Technical College.

The hope is this will provide the skilled workers needed to keep buses and trains running for years to come.

“This is a career move, this is not a job, this is something that we hope that they’ll continue for the rest of their lives,” said Daniel Suggs, Metro Transit’s director of rail systems maintenance.

Metro Transit says it wants a diverse group of workers to reflect the diversity of the Twin Cities. That means encouraging people of color and women to apply.

“They’re learning no matter how old you are, or where you are in your life, you can always turn over a leaf and start something new,” McClenton said.

The program may be demanding, but it’s helping these women secure a better life for their children.

“There’s just a lot of opportunities in this one opportunity itself, so I kind of felt like I had to take it,” said participant Caitlin Wagner. “I told [my daughter] that I work on the trains and her eyes just got huge! She was like, ‘What? You work on trains!’ She just thought it was so cool.”

Metro Transit says no experience is required to take part in the program. The big question now is funding.

Metro Transit is still waiting to hear if the state will help fund its next class of participants.