Washington State Ferries (WSF) provides service on nine ferry routes with almost 450 sailings per day. In 2021, the WSF temporarily switched to alternate service schedules on most routes to reduce last-minute sailing cancellations caused by crewing challenges. In March of 2022, the WSF released its Service Restoration Plan which outlines steps to restore service on a route-by-route basis, dependent on crew and vessel availability and service reliability during a trial restoration period.
The 2021-23 Biennial Transportation Budget directed the Joint Transportation Committee (JTC) to develop a workforce plan for the WSF, addressing the staffing shortage, career advancement and retention, recruitment and hiring, cultural issues, and succession planning. The JTC study implementation plan includes a comprehensive set of recommendations, including that a formal Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion strategy must be included in WSF's employee advancement and retention efforts.
The WSF is directed to adopt a formal strategy to implement diversity, equity, and inclusion as part of its efforts relating to recruitment, employee development and retention, and agency branding for workforce marketing materials.
The WSF must annually conduct an employee survey on workplace conditions which must be used to perform an in-depth cultural assessment; identify issues of concern among the workforce; and form an action plan to remediate any cultural issues identified. A summary of survey results and corresponding action planning must be submitted with each biennial budget submission, beginning with the 2025-27 Biennial Transportation Budget.
In consultation with labor partners, the WSF must develop programs for transferring knowledge through formalized mentorship and apprenticeship programs. The WSF must also adopt a formal policy to assist job applicants to gain required United States Coast Guard documentation and maritime credentialing necessary for entry level positions. Assistance to prospective employees may include both financial and technical assistance.
The WSF must continuously evaluate management practices concerning recruitment and hiring, staffing levels, scheduling practices, compensation, and agency technology needs, to optimize system and administrative performance.
The WSF must develop a staffing model to forecast staffing needs and succession planning for future biennia, set a target level of operational overtime, and report on staffing progress for deck, terminal, maintenance, and engine room employees as part of each biennial budget submission, beginning with the 2025-27 Biennial Transportation Budget.
The WSF may partner with maritime academies and training facilities to offer instruction, including electronic learning, internships, or apprenticeships, to current or prospective employees.