When we last left our story 2013 was coming to a close. The 15yr incumbent Program Administrator, Company X, had lost their bid to remain running the Program following a contract RFP generated, evaluated and awarded by PennDOT to another party, Vendor Y.
Change was coming and PennDOT had made that decision, but not all change is good.
During this time, the change came in the form of a company that most people in PA had never heard of who was going to Administer the program centrally, using the same curriculum as the previous Administrator.
While using the same curriculum would ease some of the transition issues on the Range, it was clear early on that the experience of the previous Administrator, gained over 15 years of trial and error, was not going to be adopted, to ensure the continuity the PAMSP Instructor Corps was planning on.
Although there was a transition between the current and prior Administrators, changes started taking place that would have a ripple effect through the program.
A new staffing company was brought in. Policies and Procedures were changed, the way scheduling and timekeeping were being done were facing migrations to new systems.
The positions of Site Coordinators & Assistant Site Coordinators, once the mainstay of the Program at a site level, were suddenly removed and the work that they did for the sites was transferred to the Instructors. This effectively fired all of the Site Coordinators at one time, across the Commonwealth, all at one time.
Most Instructors were untrained and unfamiliar with the myriad and intricate details of interfacing with the Commonwealth and all of the Administrative overhead the highly trained Coordinators had managed for years. During this time the dedicated Examiner position (who skill tested students & stamped permits into licenses) was also removed and an awkward transition of Instructors into the Examiner role began.
More work was being pushed down to the Instructor, work they were unprepared for, had not done in 15 years.
Jobs that site coordinators had managed for years such as getting fuel for classes was now subject to an “anyone can get fuel” approach. With all of the Site Coordinators removed that quickly turned into a situation of “if everyone is in control, no one is,” forcing Instructors to step up and take control at individual sites, although all were simply “Instructors” now.
Staffing appointments were made that Instructors and Staff felt were politically motivated. Staffing changes were also being made, some people removed from the Program, others would leave voluntarily as they could no longer fight against the Program they had been a part of for so long. For some, who had been fighting to make changes, their positions would be terminated and they would be forced to leave the system.
Sites were not maintained, long standing relationships with site owners were ended, the Program Administration struggled to find additional locations to handle classroom and range. Lists of sites provided were never followed up on.
For the first time, Instructors started not showing up for class, partly because of a new and highly confusing scheduling system but also because of the state of affairs. Classes which had always been full started experiencing higher levels of no-shows, scheduling issues, etc.
A “never late” classroom policy was implemented where a registered student, at any time, could walk into a BRC classroom – a 2 day, 3hr session – and take the class no matter how late they were. Initially some students who were “walk-ins” and had been given a seat in place of a “no show” were removed from their seat which was then given to the “never late” registered student. This created a situation ripe for confusion, conflict and poor customer service. For “never late” students they could walk into the second class near the end, no questions asked.
PDWs, which had been highly professional degraded into Jerry Springer-like events or rambling testimonials from Program Management while Instructors pulled any Management aside that they could to implore them to fix things, sidebar conversations which would never realize what had been requested. At some PDW Instructors quit on the spot in a very public way, ending their tenure with PAMSP – some after a very long time.
Professional standards degraded. The Program Administrators allowed drift from the curriculum, Policies & Procedures. Want to teach 9 students on the range solo, a classroom of 48 students alone, etc. the Program adopted a “you want to do it, we have your back” approach in which situations violating established protocols, policies, procedures & curriculum were permitted.
Due to this, some Instructors, fearing for students and their own personal liability, left the program.
Statistics stopped being published, customer service scores stopped being communicated to the field. From the time the new Administrator came on board, Instructors had tried to work with them, to identify and resolve issues.
Initially it seemed that the Program was open to listen to Instructors, to address their problems. By the end of the Program Administrator’s term, that was clearly not the case and it was known inside and outside of the Program that there were significant issues.
Worst of all, the Program Administration had lost the trust & confidence of the Instructor Corps, the key to the program.
Through all of it, the Instructors taught as many students as they could. A testament to the PAMSP Instructor who sees it not as just their duty, but in many cases a calling to train students, try to save one more life.
Next: PAMSP training providers –
Let’s try to be objective: The 2017-2018 Gap (Part 3 of 5)
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