GALLIA COUNTY — There is no shortage of “now hiring” posts across the United States — Gallia County Local Schools is trying to get ahead of the game with a “drive a bus” event.
“I won’t say we have a driver shortage, per say, right now,” said Jacob Attar, transportation director Gallia County Local Schools. “I have plenty of regular route bus drivers, I just don’t have enough subs right now. And I’ve got two regular bus drivers retiring in the spring, so my subs will fill those positions and then we definitely [will] have a sub bus driver shortage.”
The latest numbers from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics said the number of job openings were on the decline, but on the last day of August were at 10.4 million job openings across the United States, effecting industries across the board.
In an effort to avoid a staffing shortage, Attar said the county is offering folks an opportunity to drive a bus before applying.
“We’re going to close down parking lots there and if you’re over 21 and you have a valid driver’s license, you can hop on a bus with one of our drivers,” Attar said. “Basically they’ll show you how it works and let you get a feel for it.”
The event will take place Nov. 2, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at both River Valley High School and South Gallia High School.
“A lot of people think they’re [buses] big and scary to drive and we wanna show you it’s a whole lot more comfortable drive than what you think,” Attar said.
During the event, there will also be information for those interested in pursuing a career as a driver.
“[You’ve] got to get a CDL and you have to have endorsements — you have to have a bus driver endorsement and a passenger endorsement,” Attar said. “We’ll send you to the classes where you can get trained. As you take those classes, you can drive with what we call an onboard instructor, who are bus drivers who are specifically trained to train bus drivers and they teach you everything you need to know about driving a bus.”
Along with the training, potential drivers would need to pass a background check, drug screening and have a good driving record, Attar said.
Attar said the idea for the “drive a bus” event was from one of his long-time drivers, Jodie Johnson. He said after she approached him with the idea, they ran it by the superintendent and “kind of ran with it.”
Currently the plan is to have a little driving setup for people to drive through.
“It’ll be basically around the parking lot, but it’s a big parking lot where they can stop, open the doors, close the doors, turn the bus just kind of get a feel for what it’s like to really drive,” Attar said.
Attar said they are looking for people who love kids and enjoy being around them. He also said the job’s unique schedule can be of interest to people.
“Some of our drivers are retirees looking for something else to do,” Attar said. “Some of them [are] parents whose kids have become school-aged and they want to have the same schedule as their kids. Empty-nesters, people just looking for [a] new career, all kinds of stuff.”
Driving a daily route is not the only thing a bus driver can do, Attar said.
“If you become a bus driver, you don’t have to just drive a bus route,” Attar said. “There’s more to it than that. You can drive trips for the football team or basketball team, baseball teams; there’s after-school activities or field trips. There’s all kinds of different ways that you can drive buses without necessarily being tied down to a route first thing in the morning and in the afternoon.”
One thing Attar said is important for those interested to know is the evolution of bus technology.
“A lot of them have backup cameras now. The ride’s a lot more comfortable than what we’re use to, than what it was when we were kids going through school. So, it’s a lot better,” Attar said.
Attar said West Virginians with a valid driver’s license and interest in driving a bus are also welcome to the event.
Attar said if anyone would like more information on the event or becoming a driver to cal the county at 740-379-9085 or to email him [email protected]
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Brittany Hively is a staff writer at Ohio Valley Publishing. Follow her on Twitter @britthively; reach her at (740) 446-2342 ext 2555.