NJ Transit took another step toward replenishing its depleted workforce Wednesday, when seven people completed their locomotive engineer training class.

After around six weeks of field testing, they’ll be certified to operate a train. State officials have said the key to eliminating the need to cancel trains due to operator availability is to train more engineers, and they believe by next spring or summer the personnel shortage should ease.

Gov. Phil Murphy spoke at a ceremony in Kearny marking the end of the engineers’ 24 weeks of classroom work – part of 78 weeks of training in all.

“New Jersey’s future rides on a safe and reliable and properly staffed NJ Transit, and in so many respects, literally and figuratively, it rides with you all,” Murphy said.

“Three hundred thousand plus New Jerseyans who rely upon NJ Transit to get from home to work and back again or get to school and back again or just to get a day out have never needed you more,” he said.

This is the second class of engineers completing their training this year, with 19 engineers combined. Another two classes will be done by January, with another three classes behind that later in 2020. An eighth class began its training last week.

All told, more than 100 engineer trainees have been enrolled.

“It’ll be 35 this year,” said NJ Transit President and Chief Executive Officer Kevin Corbett. “Next year, we have roughly 51 more engineers that are in the pipeline going through – as you know, as you see them – going through their training. And then there are certainly going to be other classes going to ’22.”

The engineer class started in March 2018 with 20 students. Seven made it to Wednesday’s ceremony, including Vincent Gordon, whose uncles and grandfather used to work for the railroad and who got his start at NJ Transit three years ago as a coach cleaner.

“We’ve all heard the talks about how intense and difficult this program actually was, but really we had no idea,” Gordon said.

The classes include up to a dozen quizzes daily, Gordon said.

“If you happen to fail five in a row, it was possible to lose your job that day,” he said. “I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t stressful, but that stress only prepared us for what the complications of this job was going to give us out there every day when we were promoted.”

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Michael Symons is State House bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5 and the editor of New Jersey: Decoded. Follow @NJDecoded on Twitter and Facebook. Contact him at michael.symons@townsquaremedia.com