Conn. (WTNH) — There’s one thing school bus companies all across Connecticut have in common.
“We’re all hiring,” said Jon Hipsher, CEO of M&J Bus Incorporated.
Seven companies gathered at M&J Bus’s Old Saybrook terminal Wednesday because they say the school bus driver shortage has reached a crisis level.
“We’re probably, across the state, 20-30 percent short right now,” said Donald DeVivo, President of Dattco.
That shortage has been around for a few years and the pandemic did not help.
“You’ve got the unemployment where people are getting extra money for unemployment,” said DeVivo. “You’ve got a competing workforce in that when you get a CDL you can drive a truck.”
But they also say getting behind the wheel of one of these 40-foot-long yellow buses is a high-paying part-time job and one where you can even bring your young kids to work with you.
Brenda Bass drove by a sign which said ‘Hiring drivers’ while with her daughter 32 years ago.
“I thought ‘I can do this,’” said Bass. “I love to drive. I can bring her with me and I never looked back.”
“You also as a parent get to know children that your children are going to school with. You get to know all the teachers in the area,” added Sheila Baker, Safety Manager for New Britain Transportation.
“I think my husband says I love my job more than him,” joked Rebecca Ortiz of M&J Bus.
Many of the managers gathered Wednesday are trainers and safety directors but these days they also drive to fill in the gaps and keep the buses rolling.
If you are interested in driving a bus this may be the time to do it.
You have to go through up to eight weeks of training and you have to undergo a background check. So if you want to drive in the fall you may need to start the process now.
“This is a job where there’s opportunity,” said Bass.
These veteran drivers say it’s also a very rewarding career where you can have an impact on students as the first and last face they see during their school day.
“I’ve been in this industry now for a little over 26 years,” said Shawn Bruzik of M&J Bus.
“I love my kids,” said Theresa Carter, a driver and trainer with STA. “I’ve had the same run for the past 10 years.”