The “help wanted” ad, posted near the carpool lane at a Wake County elementary school, promises flexible hours and a “flashy company car,” one with room for 72 passengers.
But it’s not a party bus; it’s a school bus, and the Wake County school system is seeking people to fill the driver’s seat.
The clever pitch to deal with a bus-driver shortage appears to be working, said schools spokeswoman Lisa Luten. A recruitment campaign launched in November yielded 62 hires through January, she said. An earlier campaign, held last June through August, produced 150 drivers.
The first campaign cost the schools about $20,000. The second, which runs through June, will cost about $100,000.
“We judge the campaign by its ability to attract successful job candidates,” Luten said in an email. “So far we’re happy with the results.”
Without enough bus drivers, Wake school leaders decided last summer to use 17 fewer buses and add more “shared runs” where drivers make multiple trips for the same school. That means some students have to catch the bus earlier in the morning or get home later in the afternoon.
In hopes of easing the shortage, Wake increased the pay in September for a new bus driver to $13.11 an hour, up from $12.55 an hour.
Wake County schools run some 750 regular bus routes each morning and afternoon. There are 736 bus drivers, and Wake draws from a pool of 63 substitute drivers to run the other 14 routes.
Through the latest recruitment campaign, Wake hopes to hire as many as 100 bus drivers, Luten said. “We’re hiring both full-time bus drivers and substitute drivers,” she said. “Our focus is on hiring full-time drivers who will be assigned a bus and cover a route.”
The campaign has two primary ads – one touting flexible hours and the flashy company car, the other seeking people willing to “be the bright yellow spot in a child’s day.”
“The campaign concepts were based in research aimed at understanding the career motivations of successful school transportation professionals,” Luten said. “Our research uncovered that successful candidates would be motivated by the opportunity to positively impact the life of a student and the opportunity to have a flexible, stable job with good benefits.”
Even with the pay raise, the salary and hours fall short of many jobs in the private sector. But bus drivers can earn attractive benefits, Luten said, including state-paid health insurance, vacation time and a pension.
Bus drivers in North Carolina must have a commercial driver’s license. That’s a three-day class that ends with a written test and behind-the-wheel test on a school bus.
The school system provides the classroom instruction and testing at no charge. Drivers must pay for their permit ($68) and three-year-license ($84), though the school system will front that money if requested, Luten said. Drivers reimburse the school system from their first paycheck.
Scott Bolejack: 919-829-4629, @ScottBolejack
Bus driver job fair
Prospective school bus drivers in Wake County can learn more about the job during a job fair from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 15, at Carroll Middle School, 4520 Six Forks Road, Raleigh. Also, more information is online at wcpss.net/busjobs.