The Big Blue Bus hosted a special tour of its new eco-maintenance facility Feb. 1 for 30 middle school students as part of a statewide initiative designed to educate students about various career opportunities.

Members of the Big Blue Bus management and maintenance staff involved the students in several interactive demonstrations of equipment and maintenance techniques designed to pique the students’ interest in possible careers in transportation. The students came from Markham Middle School in Los Angeles and are also members of the Watts/Willowbrook Boys & Girls Club.

“This tour is another opportunity to reach out to the youth of our communities,” said Ralph Merced, transit maintenance manager for the Big Blue Bus.

“These students represent our future workforce, and it’s important they gain as much knowledge as possible about the different career paths they might want to take after graduating.”

Merced noted that there is a wide range of job opportunities available in transit today, including many high-tech positions.

The Big Blue Bus has been actively involved for years with various school programs around Santa Monica and other parts of Los Angeles County, helping students get practical, hands-on experience they can use to progress in their studies, transit agency officials said.

The agency currently has an intern partnership with Los Angeles Trade Tech College, where students work with experienced Big Blue Bus technicians to learn engine repair. The program has graduated 16 students so far.

“These types of programs really help develop a hiring pool for the benefit of all transit agencies in the region,” said Merced. “They also provide students with real-world work experience they can then use on resumes and in job interviews.”

Organizers of the tour included the Watts/Willowbrook Boys & Girls Club, Los Angeles Trade Tech College and Community Career Development, Inc.